One of those “whoa that’s cool” musical moments happened to me in the most dull of environments – sitting on my couch in my apartment a few summers ago. Cardboard Kids had just released their Mint EP and it was likely a tweet from their singer Jake Germany that led me to seek out R.LUM.R. on YouTube. His song “Show Me” with all of it’s vocal distortion, nostalgic melody and cutting edge production made me an instant fan.
I would later experience another side of the moniker of Reggie Williams, seeing him play many of his songs acoustic at SXSW – bare bones emotion and talent in the midst of the chaos that is Austin, TX that time of year. A neat accomplishment to perform there, especially as raw as that.
Surfacing, R.LUM.R.’s major label debut, is the marriage of both sides I experienced – the layered, complex version in a simple environment, and the bare, raw version in a chaotic environment.
Surfacing is one of those albums that is easier to examine as a whole than as individual tracks. The vibe of the record can be summed up with “What If I (Still Feel),” which is also the longest song on it. The sense of longing, questioning, and space where passion meets desperation. Reggie’s vocals are tender and down to earth, even when tackling the most difficult of topics.
One exception I’ll make when taking about individual tracks on this album is “Circles.” I like a music that many people would consider sad but I find it more calming than anything. This song is the first in a long time to genuinely make me feel sad. “I don’t want to talk in circles / I already know that story way too well” is all too relatable, and in the second verse, he addresses suicide, mentioning “…If I leave I’m selfish / But if I stay I end up hateful and helpless” punched me in the gut and gave me a new level of sympathy for those that struggle with depression.
That being punched in the gut feeling never lasts, long though. The smooth tones of the album have just the right amount of modern pop polish without becoming indulgent. This certainly is more soul than electropop, though elements of both are present.
Surfacing is a satisfying album that will likely take some coaxing for me to come back to on a regular basis, simply because I don’t always like to douse my heart with feels. When I do douse, though, I know it will be worthwhile.