There's a certain strain of just below the surface pop that seems to be gain more traction with every year. The main signpost are the vulnerable, light, falsetto vocals of a young but world weary male singer. The backing might be forward moving R&B, slightly retro AOR, or some sort of post dubstep melange. Tropics (aka Chris Ward) builds his own unique sound starting with uncomplicated but compelling piano. From there come welcome additions from live band members Keith Vaz and Morgan Hislop, along with rhythmic contributions from specialist jazz drummer Gillan McLaughlin. It's a singular sound that provides the ideal environment for Ward's vocals. And he's found greater confidence in his voice since his earlier recordings. They're a bit androgynous, not unlike Innovative Leisure labelmates Rhye, while the lyrics are direct and assured. You can hear the influence of the Beach Boys, Max Roach and Arthur Russell floating throughout the album. There are ambient passages that become punctuated by McLaughlin's avant garde drumming as the sounds become more layered. You get the idea that there is plenty to dig into with Rapture. It's definitely an album that unfolds the more you listen to it.
- music label: Innovative Leisure Records 2015
reviewed by Hank Ohs 03/2015