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Gregory Douglass – “Battler” Review

Gregory Douglass is an indie singer/songwriter who has just blipped onto HPM’s radar just in time for his latest release “Battler”. Man with acoustic edge and a naturally smooth vocal talent is the sound here. It’s a potent one too.

“Broken Through” opens with a simple piano riff which has the slightest discord. Along with the chords used its enough to distinguish Gregory from mainstream alternative piano pop rock but it keeps him very easy to the year too. His smooth and soaring vocals are showcased in the chorus. The vocal layering almost gives this excellent song a gospel undertone. No sooner has it built up its over and on spills “Cathedrals” which is a fist full more grit to it. The production is very clever in the song and Douglass’ vocal snaps between pitch shifts are something which give him that certain little quirk and nuance that sets him apart.

“Devotion” is the first slower song on the album but its definitely a rock ballad and the whole production swirls around some excellent vocal work. “Day of the Battler” changes the dynamic to an almost cabaret death on stage angle. Here Gregory’s vocals instantly sound like Rufus Wainwrights and the song could be right out of his or Sarah Slean’s catalogue. While it stand outs in its style, it’s not necessarily the strongest song on the album.

“No Apology” is a lovely layered vocal piece that is both calming and soothing. While there’s a lot of technical trickery involved in these types of songs, this one stands out because it sounds so natural and that’s why it works especially well. The addition of an organ at the end is inspired too. “Stay” is a more taut track that I particularly enjoyed with its muffled percussion and distant tinkering piano echoing far behind the vocals. It’s like the walk of dead to the final place of rest.  Excellent.

“Madeline” is the first real alt piano rock track since the opening track and it has a nice edge to it whilst having a bum shuffle of a verse to enjoy. It’s a nice cross over.  “Sadly” features Anais Mitchell on backing vocals in a downbeat solemn number and their vocals really bounce off each other’s very well. Perhaps a further collaboration could be in order judging by how well this song goes. Beautiful guitar work too.

“This is My Life” is more uptempo and radio play worthy in a alt-pop acoustic guitar led number and would do well on it. “Lifeline” is more interesting with its reversed percussive track and twisted backing vocals to give an offkilterness to a song that doesn’t sit still comfortably. It’s a song that requires repeated listens to feel at ease with but then I find those songs always end up as your favourites in the end.

“Harlequin” is a gutsy rock track that would do well as a movie montage of certain key moments in a film. The closing track is the quietest of the set. “Ordinary Man”, which features Grace Potter on backing vocals, is gentle and warm ballad. Grace’s vocals are excellent and compliment Gregory’s vocals very well. It’s a self assured end to a very self assured album.

Gregory Douglass borrows from others and then puts his own twist onto them. Be it his with his silky production, smooth and flexible vocals or his ability to write songs that would fill many segments on various TV shows at key emotional scenes. “Battler” surely has battled its way to be heard but the victors are the ones who listen as its a gem in waiting to be discovered.

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