For me, 2016 is the year of the singer/songwriters. After spending most of the last few months listening to “Hamilton” on repeat (allowing for a small break to learn all the words to Adele’s 25, of course), I have missed many of the major musical movements. (Try saying that five times fast.) Now that I am emerging from my Lin-Manuel Miranda-induced haze, I finally have ears for something other than “Satisfied” and “Aaron Burr, Sir.”
At the forefront of this new movement in my life is Evan Blum. While there’s very little available information on Blum himself, I know he has very few Spotify followers, no website other than his YouTube homepage and no active Twitter to speak of. His musical style ranges from acoustic to electronica, yet remains extremely self-reflective and lyric-based without sounding overdone.
Blum’s debut album, Cloudy Head, was released in 2015 and contains seven songs, each of which utilize their own style and genre to create a diverse, yet cohesive lineup. Opening with “Everyone’s Got a Story,” Blum channels his inner-Mat Kearney with echoing vocals and a rap verse that criticizes society’s perceptions of people. Blum is aware of other’s struggles and notes that, “I cannot judge when I know so little.” It is a reminder that even in a divisive and judgmental culture, it is important to be cognizant of everyone’s difficulties.
“Two Girls” is a steady, guitar-based song with a heavy bass. No major swells make it either boring or soothing depending on your perspective, but the searching and questioning lyrics, “What about all the plans we made together?” hope to find a lost love. Switching gears, “See Where It Goes” starts with featured artist Katherine Eva ethereally vocalizing before bringing in elements of light electronica such as synthetically produced sounds. Eva and Blum’s harmonies are light and airy, asking again, “Is it too soon? / Is it too fast? / Is it too much? / Can we make it last?”
“Growing Up” brings back the electronic vibes again and soothes the previous song’s questions, reassuring that as we grow older some things will change and some will not. Blum sings, “Baby, baby, tell me it’s alright / We’re gonna be okay.” Bringing out a heavier beat, Latin-flared guitar and quick syncopation, “Down to Your Street” is seductive and quick-witted with echoing and smooth vocals crooning, “Baby, it’s simple / Roll down the window / Crank up the bass real loud.”
The first song of Blum’s I listened to, and also my favorite from the album, was “Somebody.” Reminiscent of Andy Grammer, the recurring, simple piano tune and internal rhymes only serve to emphasize Blum’s talent as a songwriter. It brings the story Cloudy Head has been telling to a close, urging someone to “Tell her that I love her / Tell her that I need her tonight.”
The closing song, “Someone for Sam” describes a man named Sam by listing his characteristics, but in doing so, creates a persona that we can all relate to. The final lyrics are poignant and intrinsically reflective, musing, “I heard there’s a fish in the sea for everyone / Just swimming around feeling sad and blue / But if those fish only knew / Sam feels lonely too.”
Evan Blum may be an unknown singer/songwriter, but the universality of emotions and situations described throughout Cloudy Head allow everyone to take a piece of the music with them. Jam-packed in just seven songs, Blum does what many struggle to do in half the time — he connects with his listeners and sends them away changed.