When you give me an album where the cover features a bathroom wall scrawl of the blindfolded artist, goatee curiously undisturbed, what do you really expect me to expect? Whatever it was, it wasn't this: eleven tracks of Zeph Allen crooning the heck out of every drop of misery and woe hidden at the bottom of a glass of whiskey in his album Define Believe. And sometimes Allen gets weary of the muted but handsome orchestrations his band puts up for him and transmutes his rage into angry guitar anthems. His vocals are convincingly wounded, more authentic than most. The emotion isn't forced. Allen just opens his mouth and goes with it. The lyrics are a bit obvious, and usually they lose out to the music used with them, but it's all good. Allen has a firm grasp on different genres. He sounds comfortable playing jazz, blues and even metal. More specifically, he's comfortable in others' skin. He zips up the epidermis of Bob Dylan. There's also the inspiration of Anthony Kiedis (the singer from Red Hot Chili Peppers because I know some of you don't know that) all over the dramatic "Travellin' Roads.” Just for kicks, Allen also gets into some Matisyahu on "Hope in My Brain.” For the most part it works, but there are also some pitfalls here. There's a pretty contrived confluence of Coldplay and The Killers in "Are You Awake?”
Opener "I Get Along" has a relaxed vibe that is an easy listen. Everything from the guitars to the drums sound soft. This isn't a bad thing in fact it was quite a comforting song. The second song "Define Believe" is a folk song that sounded like it would have been right at home in 1972. Built upon an acoustic guitar and his vocals this song is sparse yet effective. Within the first fours song we covered folk, funk, reggae to name a few and on "Get it in" we hear an overt rock influence. Not my favorite of the bunch but the song had its moments. The album ends with "Outralong" which is a soulful instrumental piece that I would have loved to hear Allen's best Al Green.
So we have an artist who's fantastic at assimilating different musical identities while crafting his own. I guess you could call him a chameleon; they change their color based on temperature and lighting, which is always metaphorically shifting in the music world. There is a lot of great stuff here.
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