Album Review: Melody Breaks the Night

Melody Breaks the Night, now available on iTunes and http://www.KyleRowlandMusic.com

Recently I was given the opportunity to review a new album by independent recording artist, Kyle Rowland. He just released his new album, Melody Breaks the Night, on October 6th, 2012. His debut album, Kyle Rowland, is also available to download on his site and iTunes.

Kyle describes himself as “a trumpet player blending jazz, popular and dance music to make people happy.“[sic]

I think he’s hit the mark on this album. While I don’t think it’s for everyone, (it’s hard for me to imagine techno/jazz being played between Justin Bieber or Gotye on the radio) I do think that the music is upbeat and there is a lot of positivity behind each track.

One of my favorite things about each track is all the different layers that are combined. Whether it’s the crowd murmurs and drumstick clicks in Beat Viking, or the various beats and sounds from In the Beginning, there’s a tapestry of sound that’s been smoothly woven together.

The most surprising part (for me) was how well the trumpet fits into each song. I honestly thought trumpets, techno and jazz had no business being mixed together. Listening to this album was a lot like watching Iron Chef or Chopped. You think, “How the heck is anyone going to make an edible desert out of spinach and canned sardines?”

And then you are just blown away by the results.

Explain that, Alton Brown!

I don’t have an extensive history with instrumental tracks. I can’t play anything more complicated than air guitar or a kazoo (I’m still easy bass on Rock Band) so I can’t give you any technical terms for what he puts together in this album. But I can tell you that each track on the album feels like a different story or maybe chapters from an novel. Because the album is currently four songs long (Kyle is going to be uploading free followup tracks on his website as he completes them) I decided that I would give you guys the ideas it inspired for me and compare them to Kyle’s.

Here are the songs in the order they show up on the album:

Beat Viking

This song is definitely the best to start with and I think it probably has the strongest use of the trumpet. It gives you a very good idea of what Kyle’s sound is like: a layering of different elements with a trumpet. Even though this is my least favorite of the four, I found myself humming it while going about my day.

This song starts out with a crowd murmuring and I picture an open mic night at a coffee shop. The trumpet steps up to the microphone and it has a story to tell. I think it’s a story of triumph and bravado, but because it’s a trumpet and it doesn’t really use words, you might get a different idea.

The trumpet bares its soul to the coffee shop and the patrons pause every now and then to pay some attention. There’s no way they can’t; the trumpet is giving a strong performance and has some really good stuff to say. But after a while, the crowd’s murmur picks back up and the patrons go back to discussing whatever it is people discuss while they’re having coffee. However, this isn’t a setback for the trumpet. This was his first performance and, really, he just wanted to get through it without throwing up or forgetting his notes. Some people even nodded along, so it went well above his expectations.

Next time though…

Next time he will wow them. He will blow their socks off.

Kyle’s Explanation: “It’s a reference to my favorite coffee shop that inspired it…Poulsbohemian.” (A/N: Poulsbo is a Norwegian town here in Washington.)

Full Time Job (A/N: My sister renamed it “Problem Sleuth without the Problem”. I think either title would work.)

This song starts softly. When I listen to it, I imagine someone taking a walk on a cold day. They have somewhere to go. They have stuff to do but they are not rushing. Yes, it’s a little chilly so they pick up the pace, but the stuff will get done when they arrive so there’s not a real hurry. When the song ends, it’s very similar to how it started. It’s very easy to imagine the beginning of the song as someone waking up in the morning just as the sun is beginning to rise and the end is that person coming home and looking forward to another day tomorrow.

I definitely preferred the trumpet more in this song than in Beat Viking. It wasn’t overbearing. The trumpet is not trying to grab your attention or tell you what is going on. It’s just doing its job: making music. There’s one part of the song where I kept thinking of that song Brick by Ben Folds Five. You know the one I mean:

Unlike Brick, Full Time Job isn’t sad or about feeling alone. It’s slow-paced but optimistic. There is a brick in this song but it’s not dragging anyone down; it’s keeping them anchored and focused. There is hard work and it’s tedious but it’s a job that they love. On good days, there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing. And today happens to be one of those days.

Kyle’s Explanation: Fulltime Job is basically a realization that I came to – that music was like another job for me, and that I should just accept that.

Garden City

Garden City is hands down my favorite track on the album. If Beat Viking is about proving yourself and Full Time Job is about getting to where you need to be, Garden City is about getting stuff DONE.

This is seriously amazing montage music. Not the cheesy montages like Karate Kid.

This is legit, Homestuck worthy montage music.

This is, the-planet’s-being-blown up,-your-house-is-being-burned-down,-you’re-having-a-showdown-with-your-brother-on-the-roof-while-the-existence-of-the-universe-hangs-on-the-outcome-of-your-actions music.

(you might not get it)

Seriously, watch this flash sequence on mute with Garden City playing instead. It fits so well.

Or just, you know, I’m-in-the-middle-of-writing-an-album-review-and-I-want-to-get-it-DONE music. (In other words, I had this on repeat while I was writing and will probably use it anytime I write anything ever again.)

The song starts off with a fast steady beat that’s combined with some kind of keyboard(?) tune. You start getting a buildup in the song as the beat fades out and a whirring noise takes its place, telling you to get ready because–

BAM! — at the 1:22 mark the beat comes back louder, the pace has picked up and man, you have SO much that is getting done, it is ridiculous.

At this point, it really doesn’t seem like anything else is needed. You could probably just listen to this on repeat for the next two or three minutes and be happy.

Unlike the other songs, I don’t think the trumpet stands out quite as much. It has maybe two “verses” in the whole song but the timing for it is well-planned. Like I said, this is a fast-paced song. It definitely feels more like techno than jazz. In fact, I remember hoping he’d skip the trumpet. If it was played similarly to Beat Viking, it might make the song awkward or it clunk up the beat. However, the most surprising part (and a testament to Kyle’s mad music skillz) is that when the trumpet was brought in, it was placed subtly enough to give you a chance to catch your breath and not burn out. Which is good because after the second trumpet “verse”, you’re starting to build up steam again and then–

WHOA!! — 3:39 hits and you’ve hit a second wind. It’s not even a wind. It’s a tornado.

I don’t know how to describe it other than stuff isn’t just getting done, it’s DONE.

This would be the part of the rave where the laser lights come out and if you hadn’t been pacing yourself, you’d have a seizure.

If you’re working on paperwork, it’s typing itself.

If you’re Mickey Mouse and you’ve stolen a wizard’s hat, this is where you’ve gotten five million brooms to do your bidding. You’re almost to the point where it’s in such good hands that you’re thinking of taking a nap.

I think my favorite thing about this song is that while it is upbeat and fast paced it’s not a sugar rush. You don’t crash at the end. You can just start over because the pacing isn’t manic and it ends the same way it started: Awesome.

Kyle’s Explanation: Garden City is a reference to the Garden State – New Jersey- which is where I was when I wrote that one. Vacation at my in-laws.

In the Beginning

It’s a little ironic (to me) that the last song on the album is called In the Beginning. After the fast pace of Garden City this goes in the opposite direction. If Garden City is a fast paced work out, this song would be a relaxing soak in a hot tub. The trumpet is much more prominent in this track but again, it’s not overbearing and it complements the rest of the song.

Even though it’s slower paced, this song isn’t lazy. It has a steady pace, a strong beat and there’s a great contrast with the rain noises added in. It reminds me of the dungeon level of old school Nintendo games. It makes me think that I’m working after hours or getting ready to leave the office for the day.

dungeon level

I just have to get past the new security guard.

I think it was a good way to end the album. This song really shows how layering different elements together can make really interesting results.

Kyle’s Explanation: I don’t remember what I was thinking when I titled “In The Beginning” [I tell him my interpretation] Haha. That’s awesome – now THAT will be stuck in my head.

Melody Breaks the Night was definitely not something I would have thought to listen to but I’m glad I took the chance. I was surprised that I really enjoyed the trumpet throughout the album. It had a lot of personality. Even without words, the songs had a lot of positivity and I liked being able to interpret the album the way I wanted to.

So what was Kyle’s concept for this album?

“The idea of Melody Breaks The Night connects to the story of David playing the harp for Saul in the Old Testament – music has the ability to heal and to lift people up – and that’s what I want to do with my music and particularly this album.

The funny thing about the album title, I had the concept figured out a long time ago – I think I even had the album title.. but I forgot it.

I worked with the artist to make the cover art according to the concept so I felt stupid that I forgot what the original title was but then the current one came to me – and it was in line with the original concept – and I think probably matched the artwork a little closer too. The concept was always – the darkness of life crowding in around – with music making a path and lighting the way… sometimes forcefully.”

I think Melody Breaks the Night lives up to those expectations and still has room to let others figure out their own ideas. It’ll appeal to people who regularly listen to movie and video game soundtracks. And it’s great for writers and artists struggling with a mental block. While it probably won’t make the radio’s Top 40, I think it will appeal to people who want music that is more than just background noise covering up silence.