Ian Axel - This Is The New Year
Ian Axel - This Is The New Year
Record Label - Ian Axel
Release Date - January 5, 2010
Debut full length’s are such a tricky thing for some artists; while a lot of times they can provide a groundwork to build a career off of, sometimes the specific kind of music offered determines the level of importance a first album holds for the artist’s career. Ian Axel’s brand of piano driven pop-rock leans towards the latter end of that statement. A solo pop songwriter’s initial offering to a world full of digitally empowered critics needs to impress right off the bat to avoid fizzling out. A solid pop single can take you places, but without the support of a well rounded album, anything but short-term success is hardly a guarantee. The title track of This Is The New Year provides the initial spark so many young artists have achieved before him, but does Axel have what it takes to achieve pop sustainability?
The development of this album is the first positive sign of a pop sensation in the making. The landmark title track isn’t showcased until after the first five tracks have had a chance to shine. This Is The New Year doesn’t rely on the obligatory single to catapult it into radio saturated pop goodness; instead it offers listeners a chance to truly get to know Axel’s personality before delivering the knockout punch. The first of these tracks is “Leave Me Alone!” an infectious but melancholy opener with personality to spare. The lyricism is enough to intrigue the listener (“Let’s be honest, you don’t care that you hurt me/let’s be honest, I don’t care that you’re lonely”) when juxtaposed against Axel’s happy-go-lucky piano. My favorite track of the record, “Afterglow”, follows with the best melody and a fantasy-like feeling, somehow echoing an enchanting combination of Ben Folds-esque vocals and catchy piano licks a la Vanessa Carlton.
Within the first five tracks, Axel shows a versatility that many modern pop soloists can’t offer. “Gone” is an emotional and thematic track that draws us in with simple key work before a full band crescendo. The duo of instrumental “The Music That Haunts This Town” and Victorian inspired “Waltz” show Axel taking more risks with his sound and writing, which ultimately pay off by creating a sense of depth –while some listeners may find it more of a shallow attempt at approval from Axel’s musical peers, the track still radiates a fun vibe and feels at home enough among the rest of the material.
The single, while not my favorite track on the album, is probably the most complete and definitely the most accessible. Axel has a knack for the inspiring, in both instrumentation and lyricism, and it is showcased best in “This Is The New Year” While taking a step back in his infectious personality, Axel makes room for the full band sound to propel the track into a potential mainstream smash hit.
This Is The New Year is not without its flaws. Tracks like “Pacific Sun” and “Cannonball” do very little to progress the album in any way, but don’t quite slip into the ‘filler’ category. “Cannonball”, while one of the most heartfelt lyrically, needs a much more outwardly talented volcalist for it to be great. One of Axel’s finest qualities is he seems to know the limits of his voice and works well within this range, something he seems to forget on both of these tracks.
Minor flaws aside, Ian Axel has won me over. The music conveys a personality that separates him from the sea of singer-songwriters riding on a catchy single. It’s far too early to state that mainstream success is on the horizon, but Axel is at the very least headed in the right direction. He flexes his piano prowess just enough, while not relying too heavily on the things that might limit his audience. Meanwhile, proficient songwriting and catchy hooks fill in the cracks to create an excellent starting point for a career in the spotlight.
The songs are good, the piano sounds very sweet, and the voice... sounds great! Planning to have some piano lessons soon, for me to study their songs..