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Wakey! Wakey! - Salvation Album Cover

Wakey! Wakey! - Salvation

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7.8
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Wakey! Wakey! - Salvation
Record Label: MummaGrubbs Music/Thirty Tigers
Release Date: July 22, 2014

Mike Grubbs, who performs under the stage name Wakey Wakey, has been long overdue for a sophomore full length. Sure, there's been a handful of EPs, but nothing to deeply satiate those who fell for 2010’s criminally undervalued LP Almost Everything I Wished I Said The Last I Saw You. Alas the time has finally come for Grubbs to re-enter the frame.

Salvation, his sophomore full-length and first since , is a daring departure from the cozy confines of plaintive piano-pop. In its place are towering radio-ready anthems with a bevy of 80s synths and machinated tricks. Co-produced by Fab DuPont and Grubbs, the album is a sun-splashed paean to summer, happiness and new love. In many ways, it is the antithesis of Almost Everything I Wished I Said and it is that very difference that makes Salvation so underwhelming. Oh, there’s plenty of bright spots, just not enough to make this the worthy successor it needed to be.

The album opens brilliantly with the magnetic “All It Takes is a Little Love,” a gospel-infused juggernaut with a powerful chorus and a depth and presence that revisits what made Almost Everything such a treat. On the heels of “All it Takes,” is “Through the Night,” a deeply commercial and soaring cut with an indelible chorus and all the trappings to be a radio smash in the months to come. Frankly, the song is so strong if it fails to chart, then the music business is in some sorry shape. Not content to yield to filler just yet, Salvation surges forward on the gossamery 80s cut “Stop the World,” a doe-eyed valentine with supple synths and an entire vibe that seems culled from the The Blue Nile playbook.

Salvation’s first act closes with lead single “Wake Up (Lily, I Love You),” another hook-heavy slice of radio-pop, the self-indulgent albeit catchy “I Like You” and the throwaway “Nothing’s Cool.” Grubbs has gone on record as saying that the album is indeed a leap of faith, an album written to match where he is in his life: engaged and happy. He’s also quick to note that many who found Almost Everything so powerful may be turned off by Salvation. That may be true, but the reason Almost Everything resonated so deeply was how piercing and cathartic the lyrics were.

That very fact is what makes the ridiculously corny “I Like You,” and even “Dance With You” so frustrating. Grubbs is a talented lyricist and in very few places on the album’s first half does he showcase that. Much of this may be due in large part to the fact that the majority of Salvation is co-written with the likes of Tim Myers (The Civil Wars, OneRepublic), Dan Keyes (Young Love, Recover), Peter Stengaard (James Durbin, Donna Summer, Ashanti), Ben Romans (The Click Five), Andy Stochanksy (Goo Goo Dolls) and Boots Ottestad (Tim McGraw, Robbie Williams, Andy Grammar). These co-writers seem to have placed a stronger emphasis on accessibility and crossover appeal and in doing so have shortchanged one of New York City’s finest lyricists.

Thankfully, the disc’s second half does its best to atone for said mistakes. “Anhedonia,” is a beautifully melancholic cut of piano balladry deeply akin to Almost Everything and truly the only real sad song on the disc. That it’s also the album’s best is probably not a coincidence. When he channels his pain, Grubbs is unlike any other and in a class all by himself. That “Anhedonia” is also the album’s strongest vocal effort is probably not by mistake either. Side B pushes forward with “Waste Away,” a shimmering, synth-driven effort that revisits the same vibe as “Stop the World” but wobbles slightly towards EDM. Of all the songs on Salvation, “Waste Away” is the largest departure from anything in Grubbs’ discography but also one of the strongest. The gospel choir from “All It Takes is a Little Love” returns and help layer the track and make it one of the disc’s strongest.

And then almost unexpectedly, Salvation comes to a screeching halt.. “Always and Forever” is banal, unoriginal and hopelessly bland, while the title track is a dance-hall stomper that absolutely trips over itself from the very first seconds. “I Like You” was corny and clumsy, but “Salvation” is just a god awful mess. Thankfully, Grubbs atones for the last two mistakes with “Homeland” a twinkling, keys-laden affair that churns forward with gusto and lingers long after the final listen.

No one can fault Grubbs for taking chances and for striving for something accessible, but in every sense of the word, Salvation is a letdown. Sure, this may be the album that catapults him towards Billboard charts, magazine covers and those ever-elusive fifteen minutes, but anyone who fell for the War Sweater EP, Almost Everything and even 2010’s Dance So Good/Great Lake Love, knows that Grubbs has a better album in his repertoire. Let’s hope album number three is that album. For now, this is a summery disc of cheap thrills and very little else.

Recommended if You Like Jukebox the Ghost, fun., The Blue Nile, Duran Duran


Tracklisting 1. All It Takes is a Little Love (2:53)
2. Through the Night (3:38)
3. Stop the World (3:26)
4. Wake Up (Lily, I Love You) (3:51)
5. I Like You (3:17)
6. Nothing’s Cool (3:01)
7. Anhedonia (3:07)
8. Waste Away (3:55)
9. Always and Forever (3:40)
10. Salvation (3:26)
11. Homeland (3:05)

Produced by Mike Grubbs and Fab DuPont (Shakira, Jennifer Lopez)


Find Him Here http://www.wakeywakeymusic.com
 
Displaying posts 1 - 12 of 12
06:43 PM on 07/22/14
#2
Ryan Gardner
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Loved his last record back when it came out. I'll have to check this one out!
07:53 PM on 07/22/14
#3
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Loved his last record back when it came out. I'll have to check this one out!
This is nothing like his last record.
08:11 PM on 07/22/14
#4
Ryan Gardner
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This is nothing like his last record.
Yeah based on how you described it I think I'd like it - love pop music. Planning to give it a listen tomorrow.
10:50 AM on 07/23/14
#5
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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I like this record, but I don't disagree with your assessment. His first one was so, so much better.
04:10 PM on 07/23/14
#6
tell that mick
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Need to check this out soon. Was reeeeeally into his first one. Great work on that album.
07:45 PM on 07/23/14
#7
Gregory Robson
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I like this record, but I don't disagree with your assessment. His first one was so, so much better.
I like the record too, but probably only 70 percent of it (maybe 65 percent). That being written, the songs I do like are terrific! It's just hard to put these two albums side by side. Almost Everything was tremendous, and this is just a different ball of wax.
07:49 PM on 07/23/14
#8
Craig Manning
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I like the record too, but probably only 70 percent of it (maybe 65 percent). That being written, the songs I do like are terrific! It's just hard to put these two albums side by side. Almost Everything was tremendous, and this is just a different ball of wax.
I just miss the piano, really. Songs like "Car Crash" or "Almost Everything" or "Brooklyn" are what really made me like this guy's music. And there's nothing as musically interesting here as "Take it Like a Man" either. He's a great songwriter: I don't understand why he felt the need to have co-writers here.
07:53 PM on 07/23/14
#9
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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I just miss the piano, really. Songs like "Car Crash" or "Almost Everything" or "Brooklyn" are what really made me like this guy's music. And there's nothing as musically interesting here as "Take it Like a Man" either. He's a great songwriter: I don't understand why he felt the need to have co-writers here.
My guess is because he's not depressed anymore. I don't really know.
09:18 PM on 07/23/14
Ryan Gardner
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Man. I like a few of these songs but I don't see this album being very memorable for me. Whereas yeah, as Craig said, "Car Crash" is still a song I come back to often.
05:32 AM on 07/24/14
simplejack
Soundtrack of My Silence
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I know him since One Tree Hill. Brooklyn was such a magical gem. This sounds too poppy for me. And I like pop.
06:52 PM on 08/23/14
Hunter deBlanc
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I cannot agree more about how "criminally undervalued" that first LP was. That LP played a huge part in the songwriting and influences behind my EP. This album is more synthetic and poppy but I still dig the shit out of it and anything Grubbs does musically.

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