As We Dance is the debut EP from Nickolas Charles, a singer/ songwriter from Asheville, NC. Charles plays several instruments and has worked on various music projects before deciding to record his first solo project. The entire album was recorded in his bedroom and features sounds from folk to hip hop. It’s hard to put him in a category as each track is vastly different from the next.
The album began with “It Happens as We Dance” which was slow and melancholy with sad lyrics and an ’80s vibe. It was an interesting choice as a starting track since the overall message isn’t a positive one. The piano seemed to come out of nowhere and felt a little out of place, but I got the feeling that this particular sentiment was intentional. “Fool” continued with the piano and was a little more upbeat. Charles' voice is dramatic and theatrical which fits with the complexity of the instrumental backing.
“Bring Me Out of the Dark” also had a theatrical flair but surprised me with a Frank Ocean-esque spoken word piece in the middle of the track that I’m not sure quite worked for me. At times the lyrics are a little messy and all over the place, almost as if Charles is improvising as he goes along. I completely understood the intent of this song, but I felt like he might have overshot the landing just a tad. I still really enjoyed it nonetheless. The following track “Please Don’t Go as We Dance” reminded me of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking Bout You” and it was a little more complete than the previous track so the hip hop feel came across as authentic.
The album then took a sharp turn with “Devout” which had a country twangy feel. I was confused at this point and enjoyed the sound from the previous tracks much more. It felt like Charles had me on a path and this song completely threw me off of it. “The Real Joke” was a short folksy number on par with “Devout” which again left me confused.
“Backward Buzzing” put the album back on track (for me anyway) with a cool acoustic punk vibe. The punk blends much more naturally with the hip hop vibes than the country does in my opinion. Charles’ vocals were more endearing and fitting on this song and I thought the dueling electric guitars was a perfect touch. “A Garden Snake/Stonewall” was a two-for-one track that returned to the hip hop feel with an almost R&B kind of sound. Charles’ rapping was solid, much to my surprise, and I feel like all the other similar sounding tracks were building up to it. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later and this track was perfect timing.
“The Mansion” reminded me The Weeknd with rough lyrics and a hip swaying kind of vibe. It was an ambient song that still hung on to the lazy hip hop sound which I think works for Charles more than any of the other styles showcased on the album. The final track “Song of a Shaking Speck” almost reminded me of Bowie but was still a little rough around the edges. The vocals came off as a little too dramatic on the high notes, but I still thought it was a fitting ending.
As We Dance is a little all over the place, but an impressive EP. When the contrast is so severe between the tracks, it can be a little hard to settle into Charles' sound, however, when they follow a certain trajectory, it works. I think with more of the experimentation with genre blending that I expect from Charles, his sound will come together and come off as more authentic and real. His talent is still apparent, even if the tracks that I wasn’t too fond of, so I only expect more evolution and originality. I’ll keep my eye on this one for sure.
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