Americana roots rocker Gavin DeGraw recently released his fourth studio album, Sweeter. My first thought at seeing this new album was; "finally". I have been eagerly awaiting a new "Chariot" or even better, another "I Don't Want to Be". Never mind that these songs were pre-2010, they still seem fresh and relevant as ever.
You see, this dude is a force of nature. While many other people have vocals that are silk, his voice is a hard wood.
Not rough in any form but rough on impact. Silky, smooth voices aim to win you over, butter you up, and seduce you into an aural ecstasy. Gavin's vocals hit you right smack in the chest, knock you down, and then picks you back up. That is main quality of this artist's vocals that thankfully has never left his music.
At 10 tracks in length, this album is shorter than I expected but upon listening there is no lack of substance. Gavin once again proves that a) he is an accomplished songwriter, b) his tracks still pack a punch, and c) he is a key innovator in this unique blend of soul, roots, blues, and rock that sounds both so familiar and yet holds surprises at every turn.
My main problem with this album is the same that I have had with his previous albums. For this artist, who has recognizable and powerful vocals, it is very tricky to balance a significant instrumental at his back. I feel like I am in the middle of a tug-of-war, trying to split my attention between Gavin's voice and the equally attention-calling instruments on his tracks. Ideally, these two components should combine to sum their forces and produce a single brilliant punch to the listener. On some songs, this happens and on others, there is a wide divide between these two components.
The first song that I must recommend is the album title song, Sweeter. Not only is it playful, but that guitar riff in the background is so.damn.catchy. This song seemed lighter and more playful than usual for a Gavin DeGraw track. I might venture to say that it could fit on a Lenny Kravitz album (cover it alright Lenny?). Then came Candy, which is an inspirational listen with the thoughtful lyrics and that rhythm section drum-piano combo. Radiation just made me laugh with its line "You're just as hot as radiation". It's a science reference so I was obligated to give it a shout out. Where You Are is a traditional Gavin DeGraw soulful love song that reaches back to the original crooner that we all know and love from his earliest days on the One Tree Hill soundtrack (yes I had to mention that). Not Over You is the first released single and on first listen, I was not very impressed. But then Spotify's shuffle caught me and played it for me again. Ah, damn. That drum and piano again. Very, very catchy along with that chorus. Now I am singing along and it got included. So here for your listening pleasure are the mentioned songs.