𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿 - this week: Open up the Pages - Mark Houston
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝙊𝙥𝙚𝙣 𝙪𝙥 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙋𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙨 - 𝙈𝙖𝙧𝙠 𝙃𝙤𝙪𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙣
In his 20th review, Charles opens up the pages of his notes on the latest and greatest unsigned songs of the last fortnight - gotta Pikachu! (got to pick a tune, translated for those of you who are sensible) - only to find it is not an easy decision…
Never before has it been so difficult to choose a song to review. Now I don’t mean there was bugger all to choose from; quite the opposite! Having listened to around 200 songs - yes I do this every week - I managed to whittle down to 9, then 6, and then eventually 2. It felt unfair to have to choose just one. But, that is how it has to be. No joint winners in my game. None of that “everyone’s a winner round here” malarkey. I decided to go with a brand new artist on the scene with their debut single released only around 10 days ago! Please welcome Washington’s own Mark Houston! His song aptly named Open up the Pages, so let us do just that.
Hushed yet upfront vocals grab us by the ears and tell us to listen up - the first breath actually grabs us by the throat! The fullest sound then greets us with clarity and maturity. There is mysticism, acousticism and full-fat beaticism. As soon as Mark’s voice opens up for verse one, there is honesty and strong melody in multitude. Underneath the covers, the chords and song in general are reminiscent of an olde English folk tune, but Mark manages to really upscale this for the modern era. Chiming bells - most likely glockenspiel or vibraphone - are at the fore, being used as a subtle yet wise counter-melody. One of my favourite things about this song is how soft and modest it is, yet how it packs a punch with much interlaced intricacy. It smacks of experience. The pre-chorus’ vocal has the most sweetly enunciated syncopated rhythm - slightly reminiscent of the Dave Grohl combo’s One By One - bringing up the energy before leading into the chorus.
I cannot very easily grab Mark’s influences from the ether. This alternative song is original and really very much the way I would like things to go in pop music. No obvious style or genre, excellent quality and always utterly original. What can possibly be better than that…?! The intro could be said to be influenced by Mike Oldfield in that one strangely popular thing he did. If the drums were doubled in tempo, the song could possibly be likened to Cher’s 1971 Gypsys (irritating spelling), Tramps and Thieves - but STILL we are not close. There is funk, slink and shimmer throughout in the guitars and bass. The beat, although being drummed on drums by a drummer - conceivably by Mark himself - they have been mixed in a way that isn’t out of place with the slap of today’s modern electronic and synthesised beats. Mark is a fantastic and inspired arranger, and professional to the core.
Our final verse switches halfway to double-time tempo, making it a neatly tight little rock sound, fondly reminding me a little of a song I recorded many years ago. This switched-up tempo truly brings more energy without it losing any interest. The final 35 seconds is a perfect ending to an extremely well structured song. Outros (or however you’d like to spell it) are almost completely gone these days. Songs often tend to simply end, which to me exaggerates the digital copy-and-paste society in music with which we are all too familiar. Mark, it seems, has a similar attitude towards this as I. To use technology as an aid and an alleviation of the tedium that comes with creating and recording music, rather than to let the machine do it for you and make it easier to be lazy. Computers are vital and wonderful things these days - I am still so happy and astounded that I can have an invisible studio in my living room with near zero running costs. BUT, they are to be used as a workhorse for the things that used to be a pain and slow down the creative process, and for us to be able to do things which without we could never have achieved. Art must still reign supreme. The creator should never end up being Mr. Mac or Mr. Windows. Of course, this is only my opinion on the matter, but I do feel it very strongly. The best way to start the creative process is to let the horse sleep, or at least be inaccessible. “Don’t let your computer be your guide”, unsaid by Jiminy Cricket.
Right! Enough preaching and so forth. I really do wish Mark Houston all the best on his seemingly brand new musical journey. He has started with honest fire and I expect us all to soon be engulfed in his flames, with the forthcoming release of his debut album, scheduled for release later this year. Watch this space… As for this chapter, I must reluctantly close the pages.
Listen to 𝙊𝙥𝙚𝙣 𝙪𝙥 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙋𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙨 HERE!
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