Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Julian Sky has a back story that draws the listener closer to his music, as it lends authenticity and real emotion to his narratives. Julian grew up in a middle-class family while fighting homelessness, hopelessness, and the feeling of no one listening. He had a tragic accident at a young age in a car wreck and narrowly escaped with his life. Music is one of the constants in Julian’s life and is a dominant part of what kept, and still keeps him fighting, to make something of himself. Right from the get-go, Julian Sky’s latest album, “High Highs Low Lows”, satisfies that odd feeling to constantly yearn for music that pushes boundaries and breaks molds, yet is comforting in its familiarity.
Pedaling a brand of music which is sometimes gritty and edgy, and sometimes dreamy and soulful, you can’t help but get lost in Julian Sky’s dynamic sonic worlds. The propulsive percussion, together with plucked guitars, shimmering keyboards, and Julian illustrative lyrics, introduce darker and lighter, but no less beautiful shifts, in mood and atmosphere.
The luscious blend of voice and guitars, plus the flourish of steady percussion on “Love at First Sight (Didn’t Exist Until I Met You)” establishes a connection to Julian sentiments and is utterly breathtaking in its simplicity. “Fresh Start” opens with a busy drumbeat and haunting keyboard lines, as Julian’s delicate and mellifluous vocals build towards the ear-catching chorus.
An extremely high point is reached on the emotional “Begging and Pleading”, with Julian Sky’s voice pushing its grittier edge to stunning effect. The song sits in that hard to describe state between love and melancholy, full of hope but also a tinge of fear. The emotions, the darker tones and the rough-around-the-edges vocal feel, married with the narrative, reflect a great performance from Julian.
Listening to this album is almost like spending time with a dear friend who is unfolding all his inner sentiments and feelings. This recording seems unaffected by the whims and crotchets of the current musical scene, and moves within its own realm of templates. The bouncy “Stay” moves the bar even higher with another superb composition that’s easy on the ear, yet intriguingly deep in its construction.
It’s on the slower songs where Julian Sky truly comes into his own, as he goes into microscopic introspection. The lyrics and the tone of his voice allow for the mood of the song to dictate the final product, which does no less than captivate the listener’s senses. He replicates this impacting formula on the abrasive and angry “Leave Me Alone”, garnished with highly expressive and explicit vocals, before sliding into the restrained piano-driven instrumental, “Interlude”.
What is striking about the final song, “Light at the End”, is how the extremely nuanced blending of the accompaniment totally serves the song. The track projects an insistent bass-driven rhythm that is alluring, and just as you are lulled into the mesmerizing hold of the bassline, it bursts into a panoply of wider and subtler atmospherics, with Julian Sky’s recognizable vocals leading the way.
“Light at the End” is quite addictive and demands repeated listens becoming more of an earworm with each pass. All throughout this album you get the feeling you’re on a ride through the conscious and subconscious mindset of Julian Sky which spirals and builds drama. The songs showcase the inherent beauty that exists in his music, regardless of the different moods it projects.
To fully get Julian Sky, it is necessary to submit yourself to the experience of his music, going where it leads. “High Highs Low Lows” is a wondrous creation by an independent artist cutting his own path through the mire of modern music. All you need to do is follow.