Vancouver singer/songwriter, Evan Clarke is an example of a new breed of musician: a DIY type who can seemingly do it all and take it in stride.
Clarke is a literal one-man band who played all the instruments, sang, wrote and recorded his first album, Out of Obscurity, by himself in his home studio.
Whew… such focus is impressive and offers hope to indie artists everywhere who want to go it alone.
Out of Obscurity is dominated by two points of presence: hard driving alternative nation grunge, and sweet ballads that are thankfully devoid of grandstanding and maudlinism.
Detectable in some of Clarke’s writing is the soft/loud/soft/loud dynamics of The Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins. The noisy esthetic suits Clarke’s vocal – a cutting and clear presence that rides over top. His voice is one of those that has an almost familiar character, kind of a vocal déjà vu. It’s friendly. You could have heard it before.
There’s purely melodic rock/pop to add to the piledrivers and sensitive songs. The curiously titled How’s Your Teeth? is an extremely appealing jangle-rocker that boasts an earworm-like melody. There’s an exuberance in the track that jumps out and sometimes happiness needn’t be contained.
Vancouver Rain is a highlight track on this recording and Clarke’s talent at mixing heavy sounds and pop vocal melodies finds a sharp focus here. The song’s dense drive is given a light atmosphere by Clarke’s vocal hooks and strummy guitar work. This is another ear catcher that captures some West Coast resignation.
Clarke’s talent at writing tight, sludgy rock songs and sentimental ballads is apparent. Inglaterra is a glowing acoustic track that presents his song writing smarts and expressive delivery in an unadorned package. It’s a love song, but it sounds real.
Another striking track is Forever, a moody piano ballad with a bittersweet ‘70s singer/songwriter air to it.
The other side of the coin is displayed on Heaven Help Us, a solid blast that resolves into a tight nugget of jangle and raunch, with Clarke maintaining the edge vocally by keeping clean distance from the fray – a style that he favours.
Just for good measure, there’s some guitar hero excursions and epic extensions (Just the Sane) that won’t be denied, just to round off the melodic core and soft/loud nature of this music.
–– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician and freelance writer who writes CD reviews for The Morning Star.