The recent release from John Wilkey entitled The Heart Stays On The Sleeve sounds like a slice of ‘90s alternative pop/rock acts like Matchbox 20, Counting Crows and Gin Blossoms that have been forced into obscurity. Luckily for Wilkey we live in a day and age when if there was ever a popular niche you can find fans through the Internet instead of hoping to get on the radio.
Wiley's day job is helping and teaching “at-risk youth” (you can interpret that how you want). He also formed Outside Looking Out in support of anti-bullying and mental health awareness efforts. The reason I bring up is that a lot of Wilkey's music sounds motivational. Throughout the ten songs he is constantly pouring out positive messages, which seem to be translate well into his other venture.
Take for instance the first song “Get Up Off It” which revolves around getting motivated off your lazy butt and making something happen. He sings, “Who says every day has got to be any day make it what you want it take it all the way.” “Daily Life” is a decent song that revolves around clean picked guitar and is the most likely to remind you of ‘90s alternative pop.
Wilkey’s music can be hokey at times. It’s undeniable but if you’re going to be hokey you might as well go all the way as he does with “Sending The Love.” The song sounds like a Counting Crows B-side that got stuck in your head twenty years ago. When he sings, “Sending the love all over the planet” you can picture it being used as a Coke ad with people of every race and colors holding hands and singing together.
Wilkey eases up on the sentimental squishy togetherness of “Sending The Love” and replaces it with a guitar lead alternative/pop for the next couple of tracks. “City Rose” was a highlight and I enjoyed the energy especially during the chorus. I picked up a bit of Fountains Of Wayne of this track.
The Heart Stays On The Sleeve is a very straightforward alternative/pop album that may contain some nostalgic properties for anyone born before 1985. Even though The Heart Stays On The Sleeve isn’t introducing any innovative sounds or willing to experiment into unsafe territory the songs can still be enjoyed because of the unbridled honesty Wilkey brings to the table.
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