Seattle native Jaqui Rae Stewart who performs under the name Raine, started her musical career quite early in life, taking up the cello at the age of three. By the time she was twelve, she was teaching herself to play piano and guitar, eventually writing her first song at age fourteen. She then moved across the country to attend the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, on a vocal scholarship. Her debut EP, Hope is a Mountain, was inspired by the biannual trips Stewart would take back to Seattle. Stewart cites the oneness with nature that she felt upon returning to her old home, and her great affinity with the Olympic Mountains. Later on back in Boston, Raine assembled a band and began recording the songs that were inspired on the opposite coast.
The EP opens with the piano driven pop rock jam, “The Stars.” Here Raine pines for her precious mountains, and the stars, as she sings, “I wanna move to the mountains/with the one I love/I wanna live in a place where I can see the stars above/ because they watch over us/and they love us.” The song builds steadily over time, eventually coming to a rocking close.
The second track, “Diamond” is a piano driven ballad that mixes in a falsetto chorus of backing vocals and deep violins and violas. Here Raine definitely showcases her vocal range, power and her knack for crafting beautiful and elegant pop songs, especially lyrically with the chorus, “I just wanna be a diamond and last forever/I don’t want my time to end cause I wanna change the world/Oh if only we remembered every song and all their words/Then maybe everybody wouldn’t always be so hurt.” These lyrics are par for the course on this record, on which Raine bares her soul on nearly every track.
“Stop Waiting for Heaven” is the album’s most rocking song. It starts out with ethereal synths and deep bass beats, which slowly melt away and turn into straightforward bouncy piano pop. From the background comes a cooing chorus of oohs, and here and there the song is peppered with catchy handclaps.
To contrast the EP’s mostly piano driven tracks there is the soft and stark acoustic ballad “Hope Comes.” The track features slow acoustic guitar picking and showcases the powerful vocal harmonies that Raine is able to achieve.
Hope is a Mountain is a very good first effort from a very talented musician and vocalist, and one can only hope to see more Raine in the musical forecast.
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