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Justin Levinson & The Valcours – “This Side of Me, This Side of You” Review

Justin Levinson & The Valcours is a rather fantastic ensemble album from singer/songwriter Justin Levinson and a full crew of musicians backing him up. It’s a step up from his previous efforts as he moves into a Wainwright territory for the future.

Opener “Water Wears the Rock” is a big statement track. Huge rip-roaring choruses, loud drums, piano solos with guitar overtures and a distinct energy that flows from start to finish. “You Became A Ghost” feels like a cinematic pop rock anthem. There’s enough pauses, drum rolls and elating guitar solos to rival a Queen track. It’s fun and approachable and a good starting point to delve into Levinson. “Love You Goodbye” features Gregory Douglass although they are sparsely used. The song itself feels a little clunky as if its been autotracked a bit too tightly for its own good but the melody itself is pleasant enough.

“Let You Go” features Will Dailey and is a sweet rock ballad with some lovely celtic flairs to it which make it quite whimsy while the cabaret brass added to “Bar Scene” is playful while Justin lazily pub sings his way through the song. There’s an annoying bar chat sample that overbears some of the great brass work however. This is why “I’ll Be Ok” works better as it brings all the rough edges together into a playful, wonderful, joyous explosion of music. It’s just one of those infectious songs it’s hard to offended by or dislike.

A wonderful waltzing duet “I Was So Wrong” features Liz Longley gets its country on. Liz’s vocals remind me of Tanya Donelly and the guitar twangs and harmonicas add to create a distinctly different song from the rest of the album. “Million Tears” is a very traditional rock ballad in the Beatles style and showcases Justin’s vocals at its best with various octaves, styles and ranges. “Say What Your Gonna Say” is very 70’s in many ways with its clean guitars, sultry brass and light choruses that slightly shimmer. The album closes with “If You’re Happier” which is another classic Beatles style ballad.

This Side of Me, This Side of You has excellent production values. Everything feels full and explosive. Justin’s vocals sometimes sound a bit like the weakest part of the package as they get swamped by the big songs and I’ve never been a fan of talky singing which some tracks slip into. However looking passed my own preferences I can see this being a very popular album and one that should elevate Levinson up the ranks as a well rounded and catchy album that doesn’t sell its core values.

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