About halfway through the fourth track of singer-songwriter Nyles Lannon’s new CD, “Pressure,” I was feeling as if I had popped an Ambien – or two. So I decided that the seemingly monotonous folk-pop album was the perfect cure for insomnia; all it needed was some different marketing. I could pitch the idea to Big Pharma and make a fortune!
Unfortunately, by the third spin of the album, I realized that my antidote to insomnia would, in fact, not work. The once-indistinguishable tunes turned out to be 50 minutes of finely crafted, emotionally intense pop songs after all. I guess I’ll have to make my fortune some other way.
The 11-track album runs the gamut from what I can only describe as the-world-is-ending rock to (relatively) mellow pop.
While listening to songs such as “Slipping” and “Better with Nothing,” with their unrelenting drum beats and lyrics like “closing in” and “the walls are crushing,” I half expected to glance out the window and see the sun burning out, or something similarly apocalyptic.
The mood lightens slightly with tracks such as “Lost in the Stars,” in which Lannon lovingly sings of missed opportunities. Though Lannon’s song isn’t as fantastically hopeful as the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” the upbeat guitar and soft vocals of “Stars” evoke a modern-day version of the Beatles’ well-known song.
It’s no surprise his music resembles the Beatles. During the recording of “Pressure,” the San Francisco-based Lannon admits that the Beatles’ “White Album” was “all that (he) was listening to.” After months of fruitlessly trying to write, the “purity and originality” of the “White Album” convinced Lannon to scrap his work and embark on something new and different.
The result was “Pressure.”
Though it’s currently ranked No. 87,060 on Amazon.com, the album has garnered rave reviews. Baby Sue Fanzine said it features “wonderfully subdued, moody, melodic pop with a difference,” while Paste magazine gave it “4 stars!” (The exclamation mark must mean it’s good, right?)
From the first track, the wonderfully catchy “Hesitation,” to the addictive (and aptly named) “Next Obsession,” to the final, despairing “River” in which Lannon hauntingly proclaims that he’ll “never be free,” “Pressure” is a hit. Lannon takes the listener through the roller coaster of his emotions, sometimes taking us down into the darkest pits of despair, other times lifting us into a manageable level of gloom.
As you’ve probably noticed, this is not a happy album. Yet oddly enough, it’s not a depressing listen either. The sometimes-delicate, sometimes-edgy but always lovely melodies keep the album from reaching that point.
So why didn’t I realize the artistry of Lannon’s music the first time I listened to the album? Perhaps my ears just needed adjusting (a pretty common occurrence in my case), or perhaps it takes time to permeate the layers of his music. Every song is so raw and expressive that it takes multiple listens to see past the surface of seemingly monotonous beats and vocals and truly hear the searing emotions behind them.
So what are you waiting for? Go and listen to the album, preferably on a long, quiet drive at night by yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
No pressure, though.
To listen to several tracks from “Pressure,” go to www.myspace.com/nlannon.