The View From The Outside (Self released, 2017) is a fitting title for Charlie and Kevin Jordan’s debut. People have been cataloging this LP under reggae and rock, but I’ll call it straight-up pop. With that in mind, consider John Mayer, Dave Matthews, or Ed Sheeran. Tons of soul. Blends of genres. But mostly, the ooz is laid on thick. To listen in a way that does the duo justice, I had to get into a late adolescent headspace, where so much of life is about “selfing” and findings one’s place. TVFTO is laced with love songs and the meditative meanderings of a couple-a kids staying out late and getting a feel for adulthood.
Now, I know that’s not giving these two enough credit. Overall, they write funky, soulful, songs, and they generally have good lyrics, and they generally pull them off nicely. And an average album is not a bad album. A debut at all deserves accolades. Conversely, none of the songs are that catchy, and many come off as flat. The guitars and bass lines are monotonous, and Charlie’s vocals sometimes melt into inarticulate whining. Again, this is neither good nor bad. Dudes like John Mayer have built an impressive career off this kind of songwriting, and yes, I like John Mayer (for the most part).
“Sentimental Games” is a perfect example. From the corner of the room, the song is pretty melodies and well-designed song construction. On closer listen, here’s the verse: “Walking down the road/ on the way to meet a girl/ But all the while thinking what’s the use of trying anymore?/ ’Cause it’s so hard sometimes/ to lay it on the line/ When love don’t treat you good/ it ain’t easy to get by.” These lyrics are neither fresh nor too engaging. And this kind of writing continues through all 13 songs. One song is even boldly titled “Unrequited”, on which Charlie expounds, “I believed you when you told me that you’d always feel that way/ But now I feel so foolish for expecting you to stay.”
There is, of course, an entire niche market for this kind of music, and it sells very well, and it isn’t all indigestible. The Ries brothers certainly have an integrity that’s apparent, merely through the quality of the album’s production. They took their time addressing all elements of their songs. For what they’re trying to achieve, they nail it. The issue may even be that they accomplish too much. They integrate so many styles of music and instruments that the heart of what they’re after gets lost.
“Street Lights” rides the cusp. The melody is sexy and creative, and the chorus flutters with ambiance. Eighteen-year-old Kevin has a flawless guitar solo, and the song builds and builds. It’s golden pop.
In fact, Kevin’s guitar work is really quite good all the way through. Both brothers have tons of talent. In time, maybe their scope will expand beyond girls walking down roads. Then again, I wasn’t making high-production albums and going on tour when I was 18… And if you look up any live videos, you’ll see that what they’re really all about is a live performance. Part of that talent is multi-instrumentalism and the ability to plays drums, keys, and sing simultaneously. Or to loop instruments and build a song from the ground up. A great live show just doesn’t always make for a great album of the same songs.
This is the beginning of the journey for the Ries Brothers, and they’re going to have to decide not only which road to take, but how they plan on walking it.