Bob Lien – Color of Sky
Albums like this are true rarities in our modern age. The pop world, in nearly all of its forms, has largely abandoned the virtues of melody in favor of growing subservience to the rhythm and beat and, when melody still exists or finds widespread mainstream success, it’s invariably recycled in some significant way from the recent lexicon of pop music success. Genuine complexity isn’t a heavy handed or inaccessible. Instead, it achieves its effects incrementally and through a gradual layering of sonic elements. The final crowning touch comes from the superb lyrical content powering his narratives. Lieu’s songwriting sounds like pages ripped from the scrapbook of his life and there’s no corner of his emotional space he’s afraid of exploring. The results never lapse into sentimentality or self-pity but, instead, play as honest personal reflections conveyed in pleasing musical vehicle.
“Color of Sky” puts the album’s best foot forward from the start. This is as fine as an introduction to Lien’s artistic vision as any listener could imagine and is certain to make a positive impression on even the most jaded of music fans. The chiming minor key guitars and gently striding mid tempo pace of “Every Road” adds a nice shine to an otherwise hard-won lyric about the virtues of survival. Lien’s sweetly insistent voice gives the lyric an added depth of acceptance. This isn’t a reflection in bitterness, but reconciliation and recognition. There’s a stronger stride pushing the arrangement in “Temporary Homes” and a wide-open musical quality that tempers the comparatively downcast tenor of the lyric. One of the most wonderful qualities on Color of Sky is the easy going wisdom pervading all of the songs. It isn’t a heavy handed treatment of adult issues, but instead a knowing look at the perils of all our journeys through life.
There’s a lightly rolling Caribbean flavor underpinning “Wasted Day”. It pairs well with the song’s slightly melancholy mood, but there’s never any song on Color of Sky that slips into outright despair. The characters in these songs, without exception, are survivors and their biggest challenge has been surviving themselves. The search for realizing one’s own self-perceived potential is the theme of “Best of Who We Are” and it covers a wide swath of ground. It has a slow, patient swing that draws listeners in. “Weight of Fallen Dreams” is one of Color of Sky’s most memorable numbers thanks to the diverse mix of styles working seamlessly together. There’s a theatrical sound here that will capture countless listener imaginations. He accomplishes a similar feat with the follow up track “Lay Your Head Down” thanks to its knife-edge guitar passages, impressive percussion, and even a hint of exotic instrumentation.
Color of Sky scores across the board. There isn’t a single style variation under Lien’s tent that he doesn’t dispatch with complete fluency. This is a master songwriter at work. There’s an easy confidence rolling off each cut that never sounds forced or put upon; instead, the material sounds like a natural outgrowth of his experiences while still remaining committed to entertaining his audience.
9 out of 10