Backstories have a tendency to enhance meanings of things, and in music, the same is true. After being part of several bands for much of his life without finding the opportunity to introduce his own songs, Chris Richardson finally found time and space in San Diego to record his own musical ideas and give them the proper attention needed to translate crude versions into album-ready songs. So, even though this is not Richardson’s first venture into music, Always Aligned With the Sun is truly his solo debut and is a coalescence of his life experiences thus far.
Starting the EP with “Girlfriend,” a peppy, upbeat tune, Richardson aka Clear Blue Highs showcases his excellent abilities on guitar and percussion while providing the lead vocals for the tune. His quivering, sentiment-laden voice remains bright throughout the track, and he finds both classic and innovative ways to bend notes and land in between tones, giving the rock and roll song a bluesy feel.
“We’ll Do It All” coasts off the energy provided in the first track of the EP with a droning organ synthesizer linking all of the other sounds in the tune to a central chord and interval that lasts throughout much of the song. Several creative riffs and the melody that Richardson sings sound a touch gypsy or Egyptian in nature. This is an interesting contrast with the traditional instrumentation employed in the song, giving the song an entertaining style.
An instrument that is not used nearly enough in today’s music, the autoharp, makes its grand appearance in “My War” a slower song sung in a lower voice range, giving the tune a more relaxed, though not depressing, feel. The combination of autoharp, highly harmonious melodies and the steady progression of verve throughout the song make this track one of the EP’s best.
The next-to-last track “Dal Segno” adds little to the value of the EP, as it is instrumental and largely echoes the themes already present in the record. However, the final song “In My Dreams” effectively blends both the electric and acoustic instruments from earlier in the EP into a pleasantly enjoyable ballad.
Richardson chooses to end the EP on a quieter, more reflective note, which pays off as it shows listeners that he is capable of both emotional extremes. Aside from “Dal Segno” this EP avoids becoming tedious and repetitive, and instead succeeds in mixing fresh lyrics with mostly traditional instrumentation in new ways.
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