Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Natalie Estes - 20/20 Vision (2017)

Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin

Ladies and gentlemen, Natalie Estes. This young vocal sensation originally from Nashville is set to turn countless heads with her release 20/20 Vision, a four song EP that shows off her talents as an already astonishingly complete stylist, but likewise her outstanding ability to inhabit each of the EP’s lyrics. This is all relatively standard fare, in certain respects – by 2017, we are long past the point in popular song where the subject matter will be something remarkably new and nearly all musical artists revisit long popular themes. What helps Estes stand out, however, is the unrestrained zest and freshness she exhibits in unlocking these songs and her attentiveness as a singer. This never sounds like the work of a vocalist who wants to be the center of attention at all times and sings over or against the arrangements. Instead, she is with these songs every step of the way and tailors her voice to their musical character.

“Until I Do” is often times swirling and lyrical within the same breath. The piano dancing beneath the mix gives the song an appealing melodic edge while her nimble phrasing does likewise while still invoking tons of emotion. It’s quite nice how adeptly Estes and her musical collaborators can invoke rich pop textures while still imbuing them with a substance that, frankly, isn’t quite the providence of pop music as it once was. “Where’s There’s Smoke There’s Fire” amps up the creative stakes with a rousing and nearly note perfect gem that makes great use of a well worn phrase and ties with intense personal meaning to Estes’ life. She only sketches us out the details, but leaves one with little doubt in the end that she’s experienced the very emotions and scenarios driving this memorable track.

“Reminds Me of You” has a much more relaxed pop rock feel with colorful guitar fills fleshing out the arrangement and Estes striking just the right note with her own approach. There’s hints of a ballad coming through here, but it isn’t the schlocky top 40 manner that we’re all too accustomed to at this point. One of 20/20 Visions most beautiful qualities is how, despite its accessibility, it always sings out with deep emotional truth and never seems like just a half hearted, glitzy dodge to bring in casual fans. The finale “Bad Game” is, likewise, a great example of the aforementioned observation. It has a light retro feel, like early nineties pop, but it also has one of Estes’ best vocal moments on the EP and a band that sounds like they are playing behind her with a thrilling good for broke attitude. Modern performers don’t come much more promising than Natalie Estes and 20/20 Vision is a formative work.

Grade: A

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