It’s amazing how fast artists can get music into circulation nowadays. Alongside free distribution routes like MySpace, those looking to be paid for their music can immediately begin creating iTunes singles. The days of passing out hastily burned CDs at the back of gigs are long gone, and a certain professional veneer is available to anyone that puts in the effort. Carl Rivers certainly does, and it’s somehow more impressive than simply having a few tracks for free play on his MySpace page. It makes him seem a little more serious, a bit more driven.
Additionally, though, this ability to release music so fast can make an artist hasty, too rushed to get their work out and heard without giving it the right level of sparkle and polish, and that might be Rivers’ problem.
The Good Times, Rivers’ debut single which is now available on iTunes, has the right level of production, his voice neither too high nor low in the mix, the instrumentation held back and complimenting his performance well. But something is missing. Rivers sounds small, a bit unsure of himself, and a little skittish. The lyrics are clunky, and his expressions by extension less confident. While his voice is strong enough, there is the underlying feeling that the song has not been through the regular proving grounds, has not seen enough exposure or had enough criticism directed at it. The lyrics feel like a guide, not a finished product, and Rivers’ voice seems wasted on them. All of this, unfortunately, leads to the song sounding anything like a good time for the singer, and although his promise shines through, it feels prematurely exposed.
The other track that Rivers provides for listening on MySpace, Clueless, suffers from much the same faults. It is a song with promise, but the lyrics lack polish. If anything, the singer sounds more confident, though the lyrics are arguably less refined than on the single. Shorter than the Good Times, Clueless works well because it doesn’t overextend itself, and feels tighter, not meandering off at length as the other track does, but the lyrics still produce a vague feeling of incompleteness, a frustration at the vocal talent being wasted on second rate lyricism.
The soft soul genre that Rivers is working in doesn’t demand deep poetry in its lyricism, but the dissonance of his awkward phrasings will ruin the listening experience for some. Those that can ignore them will be rewarded well with a rich voice that promises only to get stronger. What Rivers needs to realise, though, is that iTunes should not be used for peer review, and that sometimes it is better to wait, and refine.
You can read more about Carl on his Facebook page.