Intimate, Intricate and Intelligent
55 / 5
By Royal R.
'portraits' is a masterfully composed and arranged record that artfully chronicles Greyson's growth as an artist, musician and a human being whilst still providing a sonically impressive experience for its listeners. The record blurs the lines between pop, gospel, soul, American folk and R&B and creates a sound that is comfortable to listen to but still quite unique, highlighted by strong vocals and a varied assortment of instrumental backings. With clear vocals and a clearer voice, Chance is most definitely an artist to be listening to, and 'portraits' proves over and over why.
1. 'shut up', the first single of the record, sets the tone for the rest of the album while also telling anyone listening to the record to shut up and listen. The track opens with Chance singing the chorus of the song using a vocal layering technique that is used throughout the entirety of 'portraits'. This single features a driving, rhythmic beat that's very reminiscent of the pulsing of a heart which, in conjunction with the lyrics paint a picture of a nervous, shy, young romance. An elegant electric piano line arpeggiates in the backing of the track, playfully pulling the song along on a light shuffle until an acoustic piano pounds out full, satisfying chords.
Overall thoughts: Beautiful, elegant and playful. Intelligently composed with cute lyrics. Short (almost painfully so) and sweet. Great choice for the first single.
2. 'bleed you still' is reminiscent of mid-2000's era R&B: a slick beat with a simple instrumental backing really allows Chance's vocal talent to shine. The track oozes sensual energy and it's mostly driven by Chance's smooth vocals (both high and low). The lyrics tell a story of an overwhelming romantic love that, in the event of the absence of the love itself, would end up harming the speaker.
Overall thoughts: Sensual track with intelligently written lyrics. One of my personal favorites off of the record.
3. 'yours' features (in my opinion) the most playful sound on the record boasting a bubbly electronic pop flavor. The lyrics talk about a relationship in which the speaker finds profound inspiration in the recipient, whom they proclaim they are wholly devoted to. The song radiates positivity throughout its being and is refreshing to listen to.
Overall thoughts: Pop perfection. Those guitar chords that play during the chorus really catch my ear. I wanna hear this on the radio or driving down a highway with the top down on a convertible. Single material.
4 + 5. 'plains' is an anecdotal lead in to track five titled 'west texas'; the decision to turn a personal story into a track is a stroke of artistic genius--it functions as both a lead in and a sonic palette cleanser of sorts. Both tracks highlight Chance's relationship with his mother, but 'west texas' as the more musical of the two brings to mind a grand image of a 'wake up call'. Singing birds, lyrics about skies, forever and the words of a mother and the inevitability of mortality really come together to create a profound storytelling experience.
Overall thoughts: Pleasant listening and a personal story that draws attention to Greyson's rather unconventional career as a young musician and the anchoring effect his mother has had on his life. The tracks in conjunction are sobering and profound.
6. 'white roses' is the very middle of the record and is, sonically, a medium between many of the sounds of the rest of the record. The track features a driving beat and soaring vocal layers pleading with the listener to take care with the speaker's love and is the track on the album that's most heavily influenced by American folk music.
Overall thoughts: Very strong imagery in this song--the lyrics are masterfully written. The organ in this song is gorgeous--listen for it.
7 + 8. 'lights' opens up for 'black on black' in much the same way that 'plains' opens up for 'west texas'. These tracks highlight the more adult aspects of Chance's identity while 'black on black' ticks forward with a sleek, sexy sound that utilizes Chance's husky speaking voice, smooth vocals and sensual falsetto to create a piece that exudes charm and confidence.
Overall thoughts: Scandalous and playfully naughty: a new dimension for the record. The song should probably come with a fan.
9. 'seasons nineteen' is an arrangement of one of Chance's older tracks titled 'Seasons'. The original piece is a more somber pop-ballad that explores personal growth, but 'seasons nineteen' is a playful and lighthearted (yet still respectful) update. The vocals are uplifting in this track, pressing the listener to move forward in life despite hardship. This track in particular highlights Chance's growth in all aspects, as he uses the seasons as a measure of his life.
Overall thoughts: It's rare to find an artist that tackles old material to give it new meaning. It's impressive to listen to 'Seasons' and 'seasons nineteen' just to see the growth.
10. 'timekeeper' is the second single on the record, a companion to 'seasons nineteen' and is a melancholy song filled with warning sirens, instrumentals that tick like clockwork and radiates a very cold, detached aura.
Overall thoughts: The unity of effect for this song is so incredibly strong: there's a longing for so much more out of the relationship yet so much of the song demands removal from the situation. Impressively complex song.
11. 'stand' carries an alternative rock ballad vibe that tackles issues of substance abuse and loss of personal identity. Dizzying piano lines with emotional, gut-wrenching vocals drive the song on a carousel of an existential crisis.
Overall thoughts: Absolutely gorgeous track. Another of my personal favorites.
12. 'lakeshore' is an uplifting track to close out the record with absolutely soaring vocals, painting a portrait of an ideal love.
Overall thoughts: Inspiring in all aspects. Sounds like getting wrapped up in warmth. Great closer.