Just when I thought I had it all figured out as far as balancing everything I have going on, life threw me a curveball. It was a good curveball but one that definitely took me a bit by surprise and has me wondering just how to fit more hours in a day. I’m excited, stressed, ecstatic, and overwhelmed all at the same time. You know what that means– I need some new tunes to help level me out. Will Watkins’ ‘Unbiased Eyes’ album do the trick? Let’s take a listen and see!
Honestly, the title of the first track was all I needed to know that this was the right album for me right now. “Good Problems (Introduction)” kicks this ten-song album off with the sound of a radio being tuned. When it finally settles on a station, you are given a southern tinged, soulful track that drags you into the world of Watkins. The sound is a bit echoed as if being played off in the distance which gives this introduction a very cool and proper vibe. It’s as if this track is giving you the chance to sit back, buckle up and just get ready for the ride. By the time this track was done, I was absolutely ready and anxious for the ride.
Although the opening track definitely lays the groundwork for Watkins’ overall sound, it really kicks in as “Sad Happy” takes over the album. Brilliant guitar work accompanied by wavey keys (yes, that’s the way I’m describing it and I’m not apologizing for it but promise it will make sense if you hear it) give way to crystal clear vocals that have a staggering amount of heart and passion in them. Although there’s definitely a bit of a southern drawl in the vocals, the overall vibe of this track keeps away from being considered country or Americana but you get that flavor every once in a while. Calming while having no shortage of energy, I was so in love with this second track and it instantly became a favorite of mine.
I love that although it’s only the third song (well, second if you don’t count the introduction), “Lovely Scares” brings a completely different side of Watkins to your speakers. A little bit of a 90’s vibe a la Counting Crows and with a sense of playfulness while continuing to showcase the heart and soul of this band, this track had me smiling from ear to ear instantly. There’s just something so happy and go lucky about this song and it’s impossible to not get lost in it. “Headed Home” seems to expand on this familiar yet fresh feeling sound. It’s another super catchy track, I loved the way the chorus packs an anthemic punch without feeling overdone or recycled.
Things turn just a bit more tender for “Beyond The Ambiance” and you get to see a bit more sensitive side to both the instrumentation and vocals of this group. Although I’m definitely not in the mood for slow and sensitive right now, I loved the power that comes with this track and it kept the song from feeling a bit too slow-moving or anything like that. The intentional and powerful feeling laid out in “Beyond The Ambiance” continues into “Angel in Disguise”. The vocals come with a little bit more of a heartbroken edge in this track which, again, although not quite what I was in the mood for, hit me like a punch to the gut. They are just so beautiful, so intentional and so full of heart that regardless of your mood, they will speak to you in some way.
Things pick back up ever so slightly in “Little Light”. Although not as catchy and anthemic as some of the previous ones, there’s something ridiculously infectious about this entire song. I don’t know if it’s this amount of nostalgia hitting me with the 90’s vibes coming from this album or the flawless production quality of this album and how everything hits so perfectly but I found myself completely lost in this track and even though it’s just a hair over four minutes long, it seemed to be done within just seconds and “Imaginary Holes” had taken over my house. Relating a bit closer to the first few songs as far as the amount of power, sound, and energy go, “Imaginary Holes” has a more playful feeling to it like “Lovely Scares”. The placement of this track is just perfect and there were moments throughout this song where all I could think about was what the heck happened to The Barenaked Ladies. This may sound like a bad thing but I promise you, it’s not- This song is fun and nostalgic but also, in a way only Watkins can do, sounds fresh and fun.
Although I wanted to energy to stay high and fun, “Lie” brings things down just a peg closer to the tenderness felt in the middle of this album. There’s just a bit more of an emphasis on the southern twang in here which I’m not typically a fan of but, for some reason, it made me notice the words being sung a bit more and I was falling more and more in love with every word that passed by. I have been so caught up in Watkins’ overall sound that I have spent very little time paying attention to the lyrics. It’s too late to go back now for this review (if you didn’t know, when I review music it’s on my first listen and I never go back and edit– you are truly getting my brain in blog form– sorry, not sorry) but I will absolutely be going back to the beginning of this album and paying attention to the words a bit closer once I’m done with this initial listen!
‘Unbiased Eyes’ closes out with “Never Left (Hawaii)” which is a gorgeous way to end this journey. A bit more of a folksy influence that relates back to “Good Problems (Introduction)”, this track really acts as an exclamation point on this album in a gorgeous way. The wave sounds in the background help drift you gently back into whatever reality you find yourself in while leaving you with this reminder that, if you need to just chill out a bit, Watkins is there for you and all you have to do is press play.
Watkins’ ‘Unbiased Eyes’ has been sitting on my desk for months and I hadn’t done anything with it. It just wasn’t speaking to me and although I’m pretty sure I promised these guys a review multiple times over the past few months, it just never happened. This CD jumped out at me tonight and as I was left in the silence of my house, I was just beyond grateful that I waited until this moment to check the album out. It was just what I needed and a release that I will surely be revisiting time and time again.
My Favorite Track(s): “Sad Happy”
For Fans Of: Nostalgic 90’s Sounds; Southern Twangy Vocals; Relaxing Yet Anthemic Tracks
Mosh-ability: 3 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artie ate the rest of his dinner; Autumn slept upstairs
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 7 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 7.8 out of 10
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