Monday, June 11, 2018

Conor Gains - Compass

Conor Gains - Compass

A musician’s life is only driven by two things and two things alone. One: the need for food and water to sustain survival. Two: the need to express, and express, and express more, as freely as the universe allows. Like a river crashing between the rocks and slowly but surely breaking them down to dust, Conor Gains’ debut record Compass will rock your world with its giant guitars and finely textured percussion, horn and key arrangements, but it’s the long term effect of its inspired lyrics that will impact you at the highest threshold.

Conor Gains is a pretty easy going guy. Even if you don’t pick that up from his very happy go lucky style of play, he’ll be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. In the past few years he’s been developing the material for what has ultimately become Compass, weeding out anything that he didn’t deem to be up to his high standard of music output. According to Gains, he wrote approximately a hundred different sonnets, ballads and poems that he ironed out over and over before finely deciding on the ten tracks featured on his debut album. Chalk it up to perfectionism or simply fate, but the results are well worth the wait that industry peers and critics alike have been waiting for.

Even for the most intellectually-resistant, casual music fan, Compass offers a buffet of qualities to be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone from kids to seniors. There are a lot of jazz workings in the structure and plenty of psychedelic noodling to keep things interesting, but it’s probably the world music influences that stand out through the funk and blues more than anything else. There’s a well-traveled smokiness to Conor’s voice that is as sexy as it is as mysterious, and it makes for an exciting layer in addition to the many other cultural accents on this album. The diversity of sounds, tones and themes in Compass might strike some as a little cocky for a rookie release, but Gains is not your typical up and coming singer/songwriter. The cohesiveness of the songs remains without fracture despite vaulting from danceable (“Dance Like It’s Your Birthday” and fresh single “I Know”), to the reflective (“Miracles” and “I’ve Been Looking for Your Heart”) and willfully abstract (“In My Head”). Compass is as nimble as a four song extended play but with the IMAX sized vision of a double full-length record.

Conor Gains isn’t just dropping new music on the charts for sport; he’s engineering a new style of relaxed, free jazz that welcomes the spirit of experimental indie rock with open arms. The combination is nothing to take lightly – we’re looking at the next phase of alternative music packaged into a single record here, folks. Who knows why it took so long for the scenes to find each other, but now that it’s capturing the attention of audiences from one side of the Atlantic to the other, Gains can rightfully take his place as the king of post-millennium swing.

Trace Whittaker

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