Pulling off something truly distinctive is an increasingly uphill battle. The only remaining spark in our artistic arsenal for setting our self-expression apart from those around us is the fire and flame of our own personalities and experiences. How completely we subsume those qualities into our art is the life’s work of songwriters, musicians, novelists, poets, and so on. A measure of technique and inspiration alike are requisites. Porcelain People, a duo hailing from southern Louisiana, bring those qualities to bear. Their thirteen song debut album Streetlights is an astonishingly diverse collection of airtight songwriting often veering into pop electronica, but equally prone to hair raising and successful stylist diversions. The production presents this approach with clear, visceral clarity engaging listeners from the first note and pushing the material as intimately as possible.
The opening double shot of “Streetlights” and “Vital” get the album off to a monumental start. There’s a lightly classical air surrounding the first song and a gradually coalescing quality that emerges in the opening seconds and progresses into full blown theatrical grandeur. The latter song, “Vital”, has a little more of a rough and tumble quality, but the melodic virtues distinguishing the first song remain in play here. “Start It Over” drags the album into much riskier territory with its unexpectedly primitive percussion track and the blues-streaked wail of guest singer Stormie Edwards matching Josh Thornhill’s emotive bray. “Play in My Paradise” is another eyebrow raiser thanks to its light reggae overtones and the sweetness of Thornhill’s vocal. Melody is the duo’s chief hallmark, but they demonstrate a surprisingly fleet footed artistic dexterity throughout that never fails them.
The instrumental “Kingdom” isn’t as long as the duo’s lyrically driven songs, but it has the same solid fundamentals and penchant for melody at work that helped to set the earlier songs apart. “Feeling Like Falling” and “Help Me Know” are, arguably, the album’s electro pop peaks with their effortless blending of sophisticated and direct melodies in tandem with solid musical principles and memorable vocals. “Undeniable” is almost a pure pop gem and, frankly, the electronica is reduced to a mere afterthought or distraction thanks to the exceptional melodic quality that lends it its luster. “Can’t Fail Now” blisters the listener with its swagger and confidence, but there’s never any real abrasiveness to the song and instead an increased focus on the physical elements of the duo’s music helps give it more punch. “Goodnight Is Not Goodbye” nicely sets up the album’s final curtain with its climatic tone and the patient development it shows. The ending, “Lullaby”, doesn’t pander to our preconceptions about similarly named songs, but it does embrace a mellow atmosphere that seems more personal in nature. Streetlights is a beautifully realized work that reaches beyond the mainstream vein while still keeping itself tightly tethered to the fundamental qualities that gives their music an opportunity to know lasting value. The deep south isn’t particularly know for producing acts like this, but Porcelain People proves once again that good music can happen anywhere.
9 out of 10 stars.