Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Positives Review

Having been a fan of The Starting Line for some time, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that their lead singer and lyricist, Kenny Vasoli, had moved on to a side project of his own. I was expecting more of the intoxicating pop-punk I had grown to love from his previous work, but to my shock what I got was a wonderful step in the opposite direction. Indeed, Vasoli took away his pop image and replaced it with a crisp new indie sound. Person L is of course this new offspring that I'm talking about and on their first record, "Initial", they properly displayed that they were a unique force to be reckoned with. They brought a solid collection of enjoyable tracks all of which were perfectly accented by Vasoli's ever-clean vocals. However, on their sophomore effort, "The Positives", they polished and improved this sound for a great collection of songs which perfectly encapsulate what they were attempting with their first effort.

The first thing to be noticed about the record is that it could easily be split into two different categories. The slow, relaxing songs ("Stay Calm", "Hole In The Fence") and the quick moving, rock songs ("Goodness Gracious", "Loudmouth"). This is not to suggest that this album is formulaic in any sense of the word. Quite the opposite, with each song sounding unique to the last. Of course Vasoli's vocals work great for each -- From his slow and concise, almost spoken, words on the lurching track "Changed Man" to his passionate shouts on "Untitled", he never falters in his delivery.

It could easily be said that Vasoli's singing is the highlight of the album, but I believe the beauty lies in the music of the slower songs. On tracks like "Hole In The Fence", the smooth guitar riffs have a soft, relaxing feel underneath the words of Vasoli; the instrumentals alone could put me to sleep. This is one of the aspects that drew me to them from their first release, it feels so natural and effortless when the snare is softly being hit in the background and the guitars seamlessly flow with one another -- But the soothing effect of the slow-paced tracks aren't the only appeal to be found here.

Along with the swaying sounds of rhythmic guitar riffs we're served a couple faster songs here and there, and even a few hard rocking songs mixed in. "Goodness Gracious" gives us the first taste of delicious distortion and Vasoli's vocal range is displayed again, switching between singing crisply and shouting with a passion. This style is shown again on "Untitled" where the first shout of the song gave me a slight shiver with how intense it sounds, and it only gets better with increased volume, as is the same with many of the songs.

The only slip up I feel to talk about would lie in the lyrics. Though most of the music is enough to make the songs enjoyable by themselves, the lyrics sometimes feel like they're lacking substance. Usually they are simple and effect, but in songs such as "Stay Calm" the creeping effect is enough to reel you in, but the lyrics leave me feeling like there is something more to be desired. This is only a small nitpick of mine, and it does not take away from the overall merit of the record; However I do think it keeps it from hitting that point of total greatness.

For the conclusion we have quite possibly the best track on the record, and one of Vasoli's best. "I Sing The Body Electric" is incredibly relaxing with it's smooth guitar riff, Vasoli's voice and of course the best lyrics on the record -- All but the latter being the formula for greatness on previous tracks that has been perfected here, making it the most memorable track for me. This is indeed the perfect end for "The Positives", it feels like a summary of all that was trying to be said on previous songs has been encompassed in seven minutes of tranquil listening.

"The Positives" is a never failing display of Vasoli as an artist. He, and the rest of Person L, present twelve tracks of unique, well produced music that is more than worth a single listening. Fans of The Starting Line may initially be taken aback by the swift change of style for him, but will appreciate the craftsmanship put into this effort. Is it perfect? Not quite, only falling short in a few categories, but it is indeed a wonderful listening experience and I encourage you to check this out, along with the band's first release "Initial". And, of course, there's always the savory pop goodness of The Starting Line to introduce yourself to.

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