Christian Shields has had some experience as a musician before releasing his debut effort as a solo artist entitled I’m Listening Now. Shields played over two hundred shows with his band Dreamer and has opened for acts such as Candlebox, Hawthorne Heights and All That Remains to name a few. Out of the bands I just mentioned Candlebox has the most in common with the type of music on this album. This is music that veers towards soft rock and pop tendencies that seem to be rooted in ‘90s alternative music. It’s extremely accessible music that sounds radio friendly and contains a number of tropes that you might expect.
I'm Listening Now is far from being the most original or innovative music being made in 2015. That being said the songs have a familiar feel to bands like Tom Petty, Matchbox 20 and even John Mellencamp that some people will gravitate towards. The music has a distinct American quality that is undeniable.
The album comes out of the gates with “I’m Listening Now” which is straightforward rock/pop that doesn’t implement any surprises. Shields plays power chords on a distorted guitar and the chorus pops like it’s supposed to. It a well-written song but it also feels indistinct. Unfortunately, it may not stick in your mind and instead blends into the ether of other songs that sound very similar.
“Lately” is an emotionally resonant that rocks out but with a soft glaze that is provided by Shields’ vocals. He actually reminded me of Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie. There is a vulnerability in his voice that sounds fragile almost as if he wants to empathize with you.
“Until We Meet Again” feels more like a pop song than rock. It’s viable for mainstream radio and has a distinct singer/songwriter vibe. Shields closes with an almost Weezer/Fountain of Wayne vibe with a song entitled “You’ll Never Know.”
I’m Listening Now is a solid effort but its main weakness is that Shields’ style doesn’t feel incredibly refined or defined at this point. Some of the material felt like tips of the hat to American rock at times. That being said the songs come off as heartfelt and Shields contains both technical and creative talent. I think Shields’ work is probably still ahead of him if he works outside of his comfort zone and is able find his own niche.
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