After five years of arduously making music, Mike McKew gives us his solo project Keep Hope’s first album, Keep Hope. When we talk about reviewing independent artists, Keep Hope encapsulates this definition to its fullest: he achieved proficiency in all instruments, plays all the parts, and recorded, mixed and mastered it in his bedroom in Leesburg, VA. Keep Hope is composed of a range of sounds from jazz, to acoustic folk, to electronic space beats. If I had to give it a genre it would be ambient folk rock. It keeps the listener intrigued with non-traditional transitions from folk acoustic guitar and keyboards to soft rock electric guitar, as heard in “Drown.”
The EP intros with some speedy jazz chords. The guitar’s energy is quickly echoed with the first lyrics of the song “standing at the top of the world / looking down / from in a cloud.” The track further develops with a slight surf rock beat into a smooth jazz guitar solo at 2:28. The repeated chorus “it’s all in my head” makes you wonder if the uplifting tone of the song is “all in our heads” as well.
To return to “Drown,” this track starts off with folk acoustic picking and the depressed lyrics “we’re running low on whiskey and rye / the air is cold…but still we’ll try and get by.” The vocals in the song are reminiscent of the artist Beirut, who like Keep Hope, also uses trombone. The almost shocking transition to an electric guitar solo immediately uplifts the listener as the notes climb.
“Broken” throws in another drastic transition into electronic spacey sounds right before more folk guitar. This really pulls the concept aspects of the Keep Hope album together by directly addressing issues of madness “we’re out of our minds / like every other time.” The bulk of the song is a back-and-forth phrasing between the vocals and electric guitar, a sort of musical conversation that is really alluring. The guitar answers at the line breaks indicated: “I hear voices in the sky / but they’re not really there but as hard as I try / I just don’t care.”
The album tapers off with dreamy quality tracks “Your Ghost” and “Solar.” “Your Ghost” has some Fleet Foxes style vocals, and the harmonica outro is a great finishing touch. “Solar” is the shortest and last track on the EP. It ends suddenly; I wanted more.
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