Encounter, the debut album from the UK duo The Green Children, plays much like New Age of the 90s wrapped in a filmy veneer of Soul and R&B. There's nothing overly serious here, the mood of the album is easygoing and relaxing. The most dramatic moments are when the beat picks up, and the singer's voice has nuances that tap into your soul. Still, there's a lot of room for growth here as "engaging" turns to "mildly entertaining" turns to "ok, this is redundant". The duo handles some aspects of their chosen genre well, but shaking things up would definitely be a positive thing.
Starting with the Good
Let's start with the good: The vocal delivery by Milla is stellar. On tracks like "Hear Me Now" and "Life Was Beautiful," she sings straight into your heart and grabs it, forcing it to beat along to the music. "Life Was Beautiful" in particular is gripping and heart-stopping, one of those mournful songs that would fit well with "Life In Mono" by Mono. The simplistic production, the single snare drum, the chorus of ambient voices, all create a canvas of aural color that strike hard and soft at the same time. It's a gorgeous composition that has the unfortunate side effect of overshadowing most of the rest of the album. "Hear Me Now" rides high on a 90s mainstream New Age/soul vibe that complements Milla's vocals excellently. Giving us a softer edge and allowing us to hear her make a variety of noises on "Skies On Fire," the duo make a soft rock song (think "In The House of Stone and Light" by Martin Page) that describes the pain of being away from one you love compared to the ecstasy of being near them. And on the other extreme is "Dragons," the danciest track offered on Encounter, as well as the catchiest. The track steers closer to the R&B side of the music, as Milla's enunciation carries a little attitude with it. The production is fantastic and captivating, truly drawing you in so you can then focus on the lyrics that Milla's singing at you.
Not all good though
It's not all wonder and beauty though. The production for some of the rest of the album is a little more sleep-inducing. Melodies are less sweeping, beats are lazier or more redundant, the vocals are less engaging. "Encounter," for example, lacks any true hook. The song plays and by the end, I'm almost glad it's over. I gloss over the track every time it plays and find something else to do. The same goes for "Life Saviour," which has many elements that should make it wonderful, however there is something lacking that allows my mind to wander. And playing like the saddest and least inspiring of all soft rock tracks of the 90s, "We're The Future" fails at doing anything, really. "Black Magic" opens with promise but soon sinks into repetition and tedium as the chorus of the track merely annoys instead of enrapturing you.
With the right mood?
Still, some of the album is great in the right mood. Whereas tracks like "Life Was Beautiful" and "Dragons" are always pretty fantastic, others like "R U Out There" are only good when the mood calls for it. What could come across as grating when you don't want something slow could be appreciative when you're feeling glum. "Price of Fame" and "Tell Me" definitely fall into this category. The production of all three tracks is great, and Milla does an admirable job with her voice. However they are songs that are better when your emotions require the tracks. And even though "Hear Me Now" is a standout track, sadly the acoustic version provided at the end of the album loses a little of its spark when the beats are stripped from it. Milla's voice soars on the acoustic version though, and anyone who can doubt Milla's vocal prowess needs to hear this and become a believer.
The Green Children is not for everybody. I happen to thoroughly enjoy about 33% of the album, with 33% sounding excellent if I'm in a somber mood. The other 33% doesn't do anything for me whatsoever. But with tracks like "Dragons," "Life Was Beautiful," and "Skies on Fire," the Green Children obviously have a knack for creating beautiful material. I'd love to keep hearing from this duo, but the next step is to focus on what made those tracks great and continue that trend.
Released October 2010 on Spinside.
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