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The Crossing Crew – Album Review
Love Is Like That
Brilliant. That’s the first impression anyhow; you can hear the inviting vibes of The Crossing Crew immediately on display as their new album Love Is Like That begins with the playfully sweet sounds of “We Two.” According to the sites I’ve looked over on the internet, this entire dealio can be traced back to the mind & musicianship of one man…a Mr. James Paul. I want it on the record that I think he’s a genius…that’s how strong & complete of an experience this first song is. Big thumbs-up to this track.
After having listened to the record in-full several times over at this point, what I can tell ya is this – I wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Crossing Crew has put the best song/songs up front on this set-list, but I’d be more than willing to listen to someone argue that point & likely agree with what they had to say if they felt that way.
There’s definitely great material on this record and a really signature style of his own that James should be proud of – “We Two” just happens to offer that sound of his at its most universally appealing & sweet…accessible, that’s the word I’m looking for – you can add welcoming to that list too.
Time & again as I listened to Love Is Like That, each time “We Two” popped up again, it continued to work its gentle magic on me; there really is a possibility it’s the albums most enticing tune to listen to. Definitely a solid start – “We Two” is as inviting as songs get at the beginning of an album and it’s a fantastic gateway into the rest of what you’ll find in the songs to follow on Love Is Like That.
“Are We Ever” makes incredible use of instrumentation and hooks, both in the musicianship & vocals. The Crossing Crew goes on to ask several questions as Paul muses on the future and life throughout the lyrics of “Are We Ever” – melody-wise, I feel like he’s nailing it again here with a vocal approach that’s completely inspired & refreshingly unique throughout the verses, and the chorus supplies supreme doses of stunning harmonies & smoothness for ya. When you listen to the actual bare-bones ingredients of this tune, the spacing & pace of the music…you’ll be more than surprised at just how entertaining this song actually IS from beginning to end. For the majority of this song, we’re talking about a microphone, a voice to use it, a guitar, and a shaker in Paul’s hand to guide the beat – and that’s pretty much IT, yet this song never lets up on its sweet & humble questioning and beautifully captivating charm. He’ll add in some harmonica here & there…a little bit of violins in the mix as well – both of which make a solid impact for sure, but the real impressive factor of “Are We Ever” is just how much James and his vocals carry the weight of this song, and how well he pulls it all off. What you DO hear in the music brings extraordinary personality & charm to the overall aura & vibe of the song – there’s a really uplifting feeling to this entire tune, even with all the existential questioning going on in the lyricism and the struggles that James faces in the storyline. Extremely well-done from beginning to end – songs like “Are We Ever” completely confirm he’s the genius I proclaimed him to be with the absolutely stellar layout & structure of a tune like this and how expertly it reveals each piece so cleverly as it plays on.
The album’s title-track continues the streak of enticing sounds and songs you’ll find on this record, flexing immediate uniqueness through the odd-but-enchanting sample that gets included in the music. I’m more tossed-up on this song than the others to this point by comparison; I think you can hear an audible difference for sure. The verses of this cut are a bit stiff if I’m being honest with the man – the ideas are strong and the melody works, but it genuinely feels like this vibe calls for Paul to loosen up a lil’ bit, know what I mean? There’s a real jazzy thread in the swagger this song locks into in the music that he needs to fully unlock…he’s close, but you can hear the back & forth in the melody and tones it calls for occasionally get the better of him by comparison to how golden & flawless those first two cuts are. He catches the vibe we’re looking for a lot more in the chorus than the verse to be fair…and believe me, I’m not saying there’s nothing worth your time on “Love Is Like That” – far from it – it’s one of the record’s strongest & most diverse ideas…and I’d be willing to bet money that since it’s been recorded, James has probably already noticed that he can sing this tune better now than when he did at the time. In my opinion – a track like “Love Is Like That” is definitely one that, given the opportunity, I’d probably go back for another round or two in the vocal-booth to bring that fluidity the writing is calling out for. Musically, I think we’re talking all-aces here…I love the hooks & sparkle the guitars bring to this song and the shift into the chorus is a serious highlight to be found upon this entire record…that’s a single-worthy sound right there is what that is. Kind of like a more innovative & cool Jack Johnson here on the title-track of The Crossing Crew’s record…the appeal of that sample in the music can’t be denied – or all of it really – when it comes to the instrumentation and execution on this song, it’s spot-right-on.
I think for the most-part, The Crossing Crew steers the ship right back on course with “Better” to follow. Ultimately, I think there’s probably more potential for a song like “Love Is Like That” to go on to reach a single-worthy type of tune – but “Better” has a solid mystique & unique vibe to it. I dig the lyrics quite a bit, though I’m not a massive fan of the vocal-flow to the verse; James sings it well, there’s no doubt about that – I actually like that quite a bit…it just felt maybe a bit more familiar & less creative than he’s already proved he’s capable of being perhaps. Not necessarily easy for him – I’m sure it’s taken him plenty of effort to come up with this whole song…but maybe a bit easier for him by comparison to the other tunes you’ll hear on the record. Which on one hand, means that the level of execution is certainly there – you may feel one way or the other about this part of the song or that part, but when it comes to his performance on the microphone or in the music, he’s delivering in-full on his potential. When you get to the chorus of “Better,” I felt like that’s where you’ll find the most gold here in this song in terms of the melody & hooks that pull you in. I’ll admit…there is a fair amount of pull towards the verse through the storytelling style the lyrics presents and the fact that James sings this song like there’s an added wisdom in his voice, which definitely has an great effect on how cohesive this idea also ends up. The way the melody & his vocals drift off in the chorus makes for a genuinely captivating moment in “Better” that I couldn’t take my ears off of…I love Paul’s vocals in this tune and how it seems like he’s singing to us, of course, but like he’s also lost in the sea & swirl of his own thoughts at the same time. Definitely my favorite guitar moment/solo on the record as well around the two-minute mark…like I said, it might be an easier idea to come to him, but he executes bang-on.
“Feel” has some of my favorite musicianship of any tune…maybe not just from this album, maybe from this entire year if I’m being honest with ya – this is fantastic. James, with his quaint Indie-Folk style, has stumbled into a song that expertly combines the old with the new in a highly relevant way that’ll connect with the hearts & minds of the people out there. The guitars have incredible moments – the vocals are beautifully unique, especially when it comes to the melody of the one-word chorus & title of “Feel” – it’s such an unexpected part of the song, yet such an excellent fit. And for about two-minutes or more, this tune just kind of saunters along, almost like it doesn’t even notice we’re right here listening – and then in the final fifty-seconds or so, absolutely sparks-up with personality, with a muted trumpet in the mix making an essential appearance on this song & record. Do I need a whole lot MORE of that sound than The Crossing Crew gives me? YES. Yes I do. But I suppose I’ll have to take what I can get in this instance…the bottom line is, it’s sheer sonic perfection and provides “Feel” with a noteworthy highlight of its own in the music beyond what the guitars create & the vocals supply. I’ll admit…”Feel” is an odd gem of its own design in many ways…even in the folk-genre, you don’t often hear a tune like this one…ultimately, the uniqueness in what James is comes up with should play to his advantage over time.
I’m a huge fan of the way that The Crossing Crew is getting many of these songs recorded…make no mistake, it can play a gigantic role in what pulls us in to listen and James completely uses this to his advantage at points throughout this record, exemplified best on “That Pain” towards the end of the album. The main banjo melody that fuels the entire song is set in the distance…the vocals just a bit in front of them…and then elements like the violins will enter into the mix over top; it provides stunning clarity in each element, but it really also has its own distinct sound & atmosphere. Dude deserves an award for this cut as far as I’m concerned; he’s nailed that truly humble, backwoods folk-sound to perfection on “That Pain.” The harmonica solo…is absolutely the best moment the instrument has on the record, earning its time in the spotlight and giving it up to the exceptional violin coming in to follow. “That Pain” is another oddity when it comes right down to it – many of these songs by The Crossing Crew really are…you call it Indie, call it low-key College-Rock/Garage-Pop, call it Folk – there’s just about a million theories you could apply to the sound of what you hear in this project – but I guarantee it’ll be just as outstanding to you for the texture of the music as it will for the ideas you’ll hear.
All the proof you need of that is right there in “That Pain” – which is also a highlight for its intentions…this is one of those tunes that seeks to gently advise & guide us through Paul’s experience, words, and wisdom – not at all in a forceful way…more-so one that speaks directly from the heart with entirely good intentions. “That Pain” may be unavoidable in life for many reasons, many of which he’ll outline through a tale of adolescence and growing up throughout the lyrics…but The Crossing Crew will also offer a few suggestions on how to navigate on through your sea of emotions, thoughts & feelings to better days.
“Find & Forgive” is a short & sweet final tune to end the album on. Musically, I adore it – I think The Crossing Crew ends on another strong highlight here in that sense. Lyrically, I dig that too – the sentiment, intentions, and ambitions that run through this entire record are blissfully altruistic and endearing to say the least. Vocally…I might be a bit more mixed there – I like the idea in the melody, I think James gives it a good performance as well – I’m just not entirely sure that the gruffness & edge of his voice was what the music was calling for in this particular case…and the smoother or shinier approaches he’s taken earlier on in songs like “We Two” or “Are We Ever” might have fit this better. It works well enough that I certainly shouldn’t be complaining – and ultimately I’m not – “Find & Forgive” might not be my favorite cut on Love Is Like That and maybe a little uneven in the balance between its energies somewhat, but it’s still got plenty of redeeming qualities in the music & melody that make it worthwhile. Besides…it’s a ninety-second long tune – we’ve all got time to fit something short & sweet like this somewhere into our day and onto our playlists, don’t we? You know you do. The Crossing Crew has put plenty of great ideas and melodies into the music you’ll find all throughout this record – and if you’ve got the repeat button checked like it should be, you’re right back into the inherent gorgeousness of “We Two” all over again…and likely easily hooked right into another spin like I was, several times.