Review by Shannon Shumaker
Some of the best albums are the ones that keep surprising you, the ones that you think couldn’t get much better, and then do. Joel Ansett’s newest release, The Nature of Us is absolutely one of those albums, and that much is obvious by just its first song.
The opening of just a capella vocals on “Kingdom Come,” the opening track of The Nature of Us is quite possibly the best beginning that Joel Ansett could have given listeners. Not only do the stunning vocals hook you right when they come in, but they also flow easily, gaining your trust within seconds and promising to take you on an incredible journey. Then, the full band comes in, and just when you think “Kingdome Come” couldn’t get any more spectacular, it does. And the best thing is, The Nature of Us doesn’t play it safe. Each song on this album is constantly changing, pushing boundaries, and telling stories with beautiful songwriting and stunning vocals.
“Already In Love,” for instance, takes the strong, smooth sound from “Kingdom Come” and adds a little bit of acoustic guitar and that warm “coffee shop” feeling to it, adding an entirely new level to the song’s sound. On top of that, “Already In Love” is just stunning lyrically - a beautiful love song that anyone who has found love will be able to relate to. The acoustic guitar in the background of “Already In Love” completely takes over in “Turn To Gold,” but that’s not to say that this track doesn’t flow well with the rest of the album. In fact, “Turn To Gold” is actually one of the best tracks on The Nature of Us, with a huge sound when the song really comes together in the chorus. “Turn To Gold” is beautiful, heartfelt and stunning, and the way that it breathes is amazing. The small moments, carried just by acoustic guitar plucking and soft vocals are just as important as the huge choruses, complete with drums and entire full band of instruments. On top of that all, the lyrics on this track are very thought provoking and heartfelt, especially the line, “The nature of true royalty/It’s not having the golden crown/It’s learning to lay it down.”
Following the big and emotional sound on “Turn To Gold” is “My Heart Is Set,” which picks up the pace and keeps things from sounding too similar or getting too sleepy. “My Heart Is Set” is poppy and upbeat and instrumentally, this track is really interesting and fun. Every little sound and instrument on “My Heart Is Set” is just as important as the vocals, which Joel Ansett has completely perfected. He just knows how to work moods and emotions, both instrumentally and vocally, and “My Heart Is Set” is the perfect example of that hard work.
Not only are Ansett’s vocals smooth and easy, they feel really comfortable, and that comfort is evident in the easy transitions and lack of fear on The Nature of Us. “In The Eye,” for instance is a very light, poppy and fun track, which transitions easily into “Tragedy Is Not The End,” which is sad, somber and simple, but with a message of hope in lines like, “This is not the end of the story.” While it can be easy to get swept up in the smooth vocals and beautiful instrumentals of The Nature of Us, it’s very hard to ignore any of these songs or let them fade into the background. Simply put, all twelve songs have a purpose. While “Give Our Hearts Some Weight” and “Tragedy Is Not The End” are a little somber and sleepy, songs like “The Cycle” really shake things up and keep listeners on their toes while experimenting with new moods and sounds.
Bringing things to a bright and hopeful ending is the final track, “Kings & Queens,” which not only keeps the same theme as songs such as “Kingdom Come” and “Turn To Gold,” with the imagery of crowns and royalty, but it also serves as a stunning conclusion. The great thing about The Nature of Us is that there is not just one great thing about the album - a bit contradictory, I know. With stunning, confident vocals, smart songwriting, honest lyricism and imagery as well as quite a bit of variety, The Nature of Us is an incredible and inspirational release from Joel Ansett, and one that we should all be paying attention to.
Listen to "Turn To Gold" or "Already In Love"
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