DeGraw Hones In His Sound And Demonstrates His Musicianship
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Ah yes, those gloomy middle school afternoons, transitioning from soccer practice to the dentist, my chest cavity compressed in the backseat of a Toyota Sienna minivan beneath the unnecessary resistance of a spiteful seatbelt. These were unfortunate days, yet I recall the manner in which the radio could really turn things around for me (a reflection of my frivolous and unstable middle school mentality). Specifically, I remember the intense burst of rejuvenating fervor that accompanied the jazzy piano intro to Gavin DeGraw's "Chariot," diluting my seventh grade angst as I brazenly delivered each and every lyric into the back of my mother's head. That was 2003, and I am pleased to announce that eight years later Gavin DeGraw continues to deftly pound piano keys whilst producing warm gruff vocals in his soulful way.
Released Sept. 20, Sweeter is DeGraw's fourth studio album in eight years—bright, pop-rock, compelling musicality bellows from this 10-track compilation. For a significant portion of the album, DeGraw soars with his customary vocal launch, sparking emotive fires in the souls of an adoring fan base (headed by my seventh grade self). Through these piano-driven culminations of sound, DeGraw tactfully plays up his strengths and pays homage to his previous musical accomplishments. He also extends his vision of self-expression into the realm of a darker hue, lyrically addressing intriguing conflicts and depraved romances.
The opening and title track "Sweeter" is a rocking stomper into a fresh, sexy, masculine direction—a road not typically traveled by DeGraw and his musicianship. This funky pop song captures the imperfect reality of a man pining after another man's girl. There is something primal about the thumping rhythmic progress, which combined with the delightfully textured silk of that golden voice conjures the feeling of those bittersweet emotions. With the guitar cranked up louder than the keyboard, infusing a cutting swagger that insists you groove along and renders your subconscious incapable of dismissing the catchy tune (this listener is currently suffering from that side effect), DeGraw displays a fascinating new dimension to his remarkable music personality. This sense of explorative artistic release carries from the opener into the uncharacteristically dark thematic sketch of tracks like "Run Every Time." Here he identifies himself as the bad boy, commitment phobic – an unusual move for the typically romantic DeGraw – through which he asserts, "I know a woman's nature / There's nothing you can save here / Me, I run every time." Perhaps the most brutal of these lyrical realisms finds itself within the track "Radiation" as he admits, "If you get an invitation, I'm probably drunk." This allusion to DeGraw's intoxicated booty calls is relatively startling and yet a refreshing break from chariots gliding upon golden paths of eternal love. These vulnerable revelations and arduous emotional endeavors color the album with a mature conception of rough honesty, not customary to DeGraw's previous work.
And if you are searching for a poignant wedding song, look no further than "Soldier." This deeply tender track is one part trickling piano, one part delicately impassioned serenade, and one billion parts saccharine promise of eternal love and protection, "You're thirsty, I'll be rain / You get hurt, I'll take your pain / I know you don't believe it / But I said it and I still mean it / When you heard what I told you / When you get worried I'll be your soldier." As a flourishing gesture of idealized romance, it's classic DeGraw, contrasting with some of the album's more melancholy tracks to create a versatile image of life's song – worthy elements. Also, this song is totally the new "Chariot."
The cheery, soul-rock singer of smash hits manifests tremendous spiritual and aesthetic augmentation with Sweeter, yielding a cultivated image of both life's dazzling gleam and its crude stains. The romantic is juxtaposed with the realistic in a creative format strung together by a voice full of evolved expression and timeless soul.