One thing becomes quite clear upon listening to the debut self-titled release from Various Cruelties, Liam O'Donnell has a pop star voice. Of course, a pop star voice doesn't always mean a pop star career will follow, just as pop star careers have been captured by lesser voices. But the evidence provided by Various Cruelties suggests that Liam has the voice, the ambition, and decent and developing song-writing chops, so we'll put an upward arrow next to his name and cheer from the sidelines.
The first Various Cruelties song I heard (I think it was a bit over a year ago) was "If It Wasn't For You", which is the third track on the album. It showcases one type of song that this group executes perfectly--a romantic song that ebbs and flows between the verse and the dynamic chorus:
Liam is originally from Leeds, although he is based in London now. Some of the tracks on Various Cruelties were composed before the band was formed, others are more recent. He describes his music as "Mod Goth Soul", although at times in the past we've used "blue-eyed soul". The materials I reviewed in the course of this post did not reveal the names of the other members of the band.
"Great Unknown" is another tension/release track, but goes even bigger in the chorus --
You know that I've been here before,
Packing up my suitcase,
One foot out the door,
We've said it all before,
We're dancing on the ashes,
We don't spark anymore.
Cause everything feels too familiar,
But some things you just never seem to know.
Do we fade out, or burn like the sun,
Do we let it or go or hold on,
Do we see this through together as one,
Do we go it alone into the great unknown?
It should be noted that many of the songs have a similar tempo and structure, starting as a low key vocal with sparse instrumentation and then building between 0:40 and 1:00, then following a similar verse chorus structure. That really isn't a problem for me, as I really enjoy Liam's voice and I think he wrote good songs. However, some listeners might be tempted to intersperse their favorite songs from the album on playlists with other material. In any case, I think that the material throughout the album is strong, and several tracks are knockout pop tunes: "If It Wasn't For You", "Chemicals", "Great Unkown", and "Neon Truth. Overall, I'm impressed with this debut. If you like pop/soul, you should give it a chance.
One of my favorite tracks, "Neon Truth", closes the album --
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