Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Julia McDonald - Gravity (2016)

Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin

Julia McDonald’s first studio release Gravity is a six song EP with an outstanding amount of variety. She emerges on this initial recording as a confident performer and writer who has an unbelievable mastery over the forms she tackles and putting across her point of view. The songs are obviously geared for hopeful commercial success, but McDonald brings a level of artistry to her performances and songwriting that makes this far more than just entertaining commercial trifles. These songs end up sounding and feeling like intensely personal statements that are totally accessible for any listener. Casual and devoted music fans alike will flock to this release for repeated hearings. She’s set a high standard for herself with this first offering and it comes out of the gates with a sense of purpose more properly ascribed to an experienced songwriter instead of a nineteen year old writer and performer.

“Gravity” is a title track that will linger in your memory after even a single listen. McDonald’s lyrical facility is very real and she writes about her experience in a visceral, deeply felt way that explores familiar themes with a language all her own. The songs on Gravity often have a genuine literary flair that never interferes with the musical experience but, instead, enhances it for McDonald’s audience. “Games” is more of a pure pop song than many of the EP’s tracks, but it deals with the same adult subject matter that she tackles in “Gravity” with remarkable sophistication and maturity. The rhythms and tempo of the song will undoubtedly hook listeners in and McDonald delivers a challenging vocal without ever betraying a single misgiving. She brings a wonderfully complete and well rounded talent to the songs on this release that’s practically prodigy-like in the way it dominates this material.

“Pretty Committee” is one of the best pieces on the album and has a sharp musical and lyrical point of view. There’s a more deliberate approach on this song than the preceding “Games”, but the track embraces some of the same commercial characteristics defining that earlier song. The percussion is employed in a much more stripped back manner and the crescendos have a stronger impact thanks, in part, to the generally more relaxed demeanor of the piece. “No Good for Me” is another highlight of the release thanks, if nothing else, to its withering emotional honesty. Few songwriters dare to deal with writing from the first person while also portraying themselves in a less than flattering light. The bitter realities of a dysfunctional relationship isn’t typically entertaining fodder so McDonald wisely contrasts the intense lyrical content with a sweeter musical landscape. “Something to Talk About” has a much more traditional singer/songwriter slant than any of the other tracks and eschews the pop elements defining those other songs in favor of acoustic instrumentation. The production is so keyed in to rendering the song clearly that you can hear occasionally hearing the guitarist changing chords. It has an inexorable tempo that picks up the pace in the song’s second half. There’s an exceptional, brief guitar break in the second half as well. “Simpler Things” ends the EP on an intense note and uses the electronic trappings heard on other songs in a darker fashion than any previous cut. Julia McDonald’s career gets off to a blazing start with Gravity and her potential seems completely limitless.

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