An angel’s falsetto bathed in staccato R&B, plucking out notes in his harp— eyes half-closed as he soars to his realm of auroras but half-present to witness the effect he is causing in his audience is the image I recollect upon hearing Active Child in his long-awaited debut You Are All I See. Finally offered in its entirety after initial MP3 releases of “Playing House” and the Adult Swim single “Hanging On,” the album can be heard through the artist’s Hype Machine page. Listening to the record, here are my thoughts about the tracks.
1. You Are All I See- a strong album opener that greets with churning harp that is mesmerizing, Active Child towers over layers and layers of instruments that occupy the feelings transcended by his words, feelings like devotion, powelessness over our own emotions.
2. Hanging On- in this track, the drum machine dictates the path the song leads to, the element missing in his earlier track “Voice of an Old Friend.” In this one, he sings between his natural singing voice and falsetto, shifting to and fro as he tells a story of giving up and personal resolution.
3. Playing House- hate to say it but How To Dress Well stole the show. I wrote about this track here.
4. See Thru Eyes- a track that implores Euro synths replacing his harp and heavy drums that sounds like rolling thunder from a distance, Active Child rackets like a travelling charmer backed up by these bigger than him sounds.
5. High Priestess- hinted at the title, Active Child addresses the subject with questions “Watcha gonna do…,” his own plea for help. Here he sounds aloof yet confronting along dynamic drum sequence and Auto Tuned vocals, which are a bit distracting.
6. Ivy- an instrumental that embodies Active Child’s new direction in his music, wonderful blending of his favorite instrument made more royal by far-off hymns and M83-ish synths.
7. Way Too Fast- sounding like a repentant lover blaming himself for wearing his heart on his sleeve, Active Child is threatening in this ballad buttered up by myriads of electronics and reverb.
8. Ancient Eyes- one of the less exciting track in the record, the song features Active Child in his earlier form. His harp playing along consistent drum machine beats, a refreshing back to basics until the Auto Tune vocals set in to make it less engaging.
9. Shield and Sword- as I go along, I seem to get the impression that the last half of this record is not as strong as the first five tracks. Though he still sounds as enchanting and sincere, most of electronics used in this track (and in the others, too) can be completely edited out and let his two instruments take shape: his voice and his harp.
10. Johnny Belinda- finally a pastoral track that commissions on his natural ability to make us swoon, Active Child sings about wishful thinking as string harmonies lace around church bell drums and distant cooing.
You Are All I See introduces Active Child to new audience as a talented, effectual musician capable of holding his own against other male singer-songwriters in the industry today. His revered instrument and choir boy falsetto make him the cut above the rest, an impressionable act with haunting songs and exciting career to follow. For fans who have heard of him before, who wanted to hear him explore his music in a richer, more resonant field; the change can be appreciated, the effect lukewarm— we know he deserves his own stage, and by his talent that has been explored in his earlier EPs, too much facade and panache is really unnecessary.
Active Child’s “You Are All I See”