Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
A little over a month ago, I reviewed a selection of tracks from ‘Rain or Shine,’ an upcoming studio endeavor from the independent singer songwriter, Vince Adams. Since then, he’s released the full album which includes eight more songs. We’re going to be digging right into it here on the Independent Spotlight. Does the full album stack up to the promise of the pre-release singles? Let’s find out.
The album opens with ‘Red Brick Lipstick,’ a single that I reviewed last month. I’d like to cite my original review below, because it still stands true....
‘Red Brick Lipstick’ exhibits a few intriguing things about Vince Adams. Namely, his production is quite exceptional. He’s got a very sharp band, they’re absolutely in step with him, and the entire mix is well organized. No instrumentation feels overpowering, the vocals are mixed at a proper level, and each performance is redeeming in itself. This is an impressive accomplishment worth lauding, because quite honestly, independent music has a penchant for shoddy production and sketchy mastering jobs. If Adams recorded in a studio, it sounds like it, and if he didn’t, it’s even more impressive.
I particularly like that Adams opened the album with this song. It’s upbeat, infectiously fun, catchy, and especially well produced. This sets a strong precedent for the collection. The following track is ‘Drinking About You,’ another tune I’ve previously critiqued. It’s equally as excellent as its predecessor, and does a fine job portraying difficult emotions in a relatable soundscape.
‘Higher,’ the third track on the album, is the first exhibition of new content from Adams I’m exploring. The track is well executed, but it does fall a bit short after the two songs it follows. Adams’ music is pop rock with a contemporary singer songwriter flair. The problem with that is that it can prove formulaic if an artist gets stuck in their comfort zone. ‘Higher’ doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
The idea of being formulaic is something I think Adams may struggle with in his endeavors. As I mentioned last month, he does market himself in the vein of a “top forty country artist.” That is, by nature, somewhat predictable. As I also said last month, though - there is a place for this kind of music. It’s pick-me-up music that’s perfect for blasting out of car stereos on hot summer nights. ‘Love Is Gone’ does a nice job separating itself from ‘Higher,’ digging even deeper into some harsher emotions.
‘Rain or Shine,’ the titular tune, is another solid example of Adams’ productional prowess. Even on tracks I’m more critical of, I do acknowledge that his productions are exceptional - they're some of the cleanest, most organized events in independent music. In addition to that level of production, however, the lead single is wonderfully refreshing. Adams can write a hell of a pop song. ‘Rain or Shine’ is a showcase of that.
I’d like to share another segment of my previous interview that covers ‘Ain’t It Funny,’ the sixth track on the album. I still think it’s one of the better tunes on the record....
‘Ain’t It Funny’ feels like a spiritual successor to ‘Red Brick Lipstick’ aligning closely with that happy-go-lucky pop-ified country sound. I actually think ‘Ain’t It Funny’ is a much better track for a number of reasons. First of all, its chorus hook is absolutely fantastic. It’s still not exceptional writing, but it is good pop writing. There is an art to writing catchy, likable hooks. Seriously, it’s a very difficult thing to do. I’ll definitely give Adams credit where its due in that regard.
‘Trouble’ is a very weak lyrical effort. “The trouble with trouble is that I love trouble too much.” At this point in the album, Adams does get a bit set in his ways, too, which doesn’t do tracks like ‘Trouble’ any favors. It sounds exactly like the songs that came before it. Fortunately, ‘Stay’ offers a stark contrast immediately after. I remarked last month how I thought that Adams would be accented beautifully by a more minimalistic production. ‘Stay’ delivers nicely on this, though I wish it was even more barebones.
The final three songs on the effort, ‘Drink the Water,’ ‘While You’re Here,’ and ‘I’ll Be Alright’ are a bit of a drag. They’re very low substance and as a result, they all blend into one another. This is a classic case of an album being four or five songs too long. Adams had a strong EP offering here - four or five songs. Extending it to eleven makes the album ultimately feel like it’s running in circles around the same themes and sonic explorations.
Vince Adams has the potential to be a really interesting and inviting independent artist. Right now, he’s got some killer pop hooks, great production, and equally excellent presentation. The problem, though, is that he circles through the same ideas and sounds. Furthermore, some of the music is so commercialistic, that it doesn’t feel like an earnest offering of his talent. It feels like he’s cashing in to get spun on commercial stations. I hope in the future Adams weighs substance more heavily in his work. He has the talent to make that happen. As it stands, ‘Rain or Shine’ is a peek at potential significance with a few terrific tunes.