I remember the first time I heard Rhodes. It was early 2014 and I came across a stunningly emotive track entitled ‘Run’ which was taken from the relatively unknown songwriter’s Raise Your Love EP. By the time his voice cracked in the chorus’ melodic crescendo I was hooked. An inspired performance at London’s Sebright Arms later that year cemented his place in my head as one of the most exciting voices in independent music; and I have followed his upward trajectory over the past 18 months with bated breath.
That initial feeling from early 2014 resurfaces as I hear the opening moments of the young songwriter’s debut album Wishes. Entitled ‘Intro’, it’s an ethereal track, with Rhodes’ haunting vocal drawing instant and obvious comparisons to Jeff Buckley’s other-worldly falsetto on ‘Dream Brother’.
Taken from his previous EP, ‘Raise Your Love’ makes a welcome appearance. Though it is re-worked with added instrumentation and production, its anthemic chorus still soars and, much like latter tracks ‘Breathe’ and ‘Losing It’, it toes the line beautifully between claustrophobic choruses and more stripped-back verse. The former is a particularly potent piece of songwriting about not giving up, with the lyric “are you holding your breath again?” hanging in the air with stunning effect.
Unfortunately, however, there are moments where the album’s production (which was done by Rhodes himself) lacks subtlety and ultimately leaves several tracks feeling washed out through excessive reverb and vocal layering. ‘Somebody’ and ‘Close Your Eyes’ both could have been improved with a more organic stance being taken to these issues.
The album is at its most affecting when Rhodes’ vocal sits centre stage and arrangements are built around his strongest instrument. ‘Turning Back Around’ does this perfectly and stands tall as one of the album’s most upbeat and defiant moments. Driving uncompromisingly forward with soaring pop hooks it swells in triumphant lyrical peaks about how sometimes you have to be selfish and put yourself first (“I’m lying to everyone I know…. I’m not turning back around”). The album’s strongest moment, however, is also its most simple. On ‘You & I’ is Rhodes at his most stripped back and his most brilliant. A well constructed guitar line creates a subtle background in which his intense falsetto can tremble and break. It is simply stunning.
Wishes may not be a perfect debut, but it remains an impressive collection of tracks, and one that, at its finest moments, showcases the initial sparks of a truly undeniable talent.
Buy: Rhodes – Wishes