2017 was the year of “September Song.” JP Cooper’s hit single was played on every radio station in seemingly every minute of the day, and very rightfully so. The up-tempo island pop is the perfect balance of carefree ease and good vibes that typify a summer tune. After a summer filled with festivals and shows, JP Cooper releases album Raised Under Grey Skies to much anticipation. The beautifully explorative album mixes in multiple genres of sound and texture, creating an emotional pull that is inescapably deep and purposeful. JP Cooper keeps his cool guy ease, adding in bits of melancholy reflection and upbeat dance tunes, creating a cohesive multi dimensional album that is worth checking out.
Raised Under Grey Skies opens with tune “We Were Raised Under Grey Skies.” The stripped back instrumentals and somewhat somber undertone give the song a really dark poetic feel, an interesting way to start the album. Whereas some would through in a more pop centered tune, a little bright and uplifting, Cooper shirks normality and instead places the introspective and soft song to kick things off. In what seems to be a remembrance of relationships, the songs shifting tempo and instrumental additions give an emotional pull. It is obvious from the start that this album in many ways is going to be a vulnerable tale for Cooper.
It is not all downtrodden introspective tunes; in fact Cooper throws hit “September Song” into the second slot transforming the tone quickly. The island pop song that you have most likely heard at least once or twice breathes an energetic life into the album. “Good Friend,” and electronic drum oriented tune, continues the party. With quick paced rhythmic lyrics and an obvious manipulation of electronic proportions, “Good Friends” is a hand raiser and dance tune. It will no doubt be a hit during live shows, impossible to not at least sway to the tune delivers on energetic expression.
“All This Love” and “The Only Reason” shift the tone a bit, as Cooper seems to draw from R+B bluesy influences. “All This Love” is a light and up-tempo song that highlights Cooper’s vocal range. With the songs structure and punctuated instrumentals the song has a rolling quality to it, a perfect road trip tune. While the song lyrically seems to focus on a breakup or an end of the relationship, the serious content is juxtaposed by the uplifting instrumentals. As the bridge comes about and a call and response happens between Cooper and a choir, one cant help but feel that the song displays the real expansion of Cooper’s simpler structure and style. “The Only Reason” continues the R+B trend, throwing in some electronic flair. The intermittent piano pattern gives the song a whimsical feel, the slower pace bringing in a nostalgic tinge. As Cooper paints a picture of love and relationships, “the only reason God gave me hands is to hold you” is perhaps an automatic favorite lyrical lick, with his soaring vocals really coming in full force.
Single “Passport Home” will already be a familiar tune for fans. The lyrical content paints this vivid picture of the longing that comes with a life on the road. As Cooper sings he portrays the scene of stepping off the train, wet shoes soaked in the puddles, lamenting over lost nights at home. The sultry voice of Cooper dances over the choir that seems to back up the song. The song offers the more sentimental side that was present in previous hit “September Song.”
“She’s On My Mind” gives fans a new sound from Cooper, playing with different sounds including a very present female vocal the song is that pop perfection that may be a surprising sound. It is certainly a radio ready tune, playful yet filled with meaningful metaphors. “Wait” continues the pop overtone, adding in a laid back vibe that you tend to expect with Cooper. The upbeat “Change” pushes pop and instead has again a dance undertone to it. The morphing horns and funky keys give the song a really excitable tone.
Cooper rounds out the album with four songs that seem to pull back from the structured sonically layered tunes that are prevalent in the first part of the album. Instead he seems to close out Raised Under Grey Skies with singer songwriter simplicity. The shift in mood comes first with “Closer.” Opening with the mixture of guitar and drums the song has a mellower vibe, the calm spot in an album of experimental sound. With a really lovely flow Cooper pulls in listeners with an emotional strand that is typical in singer songwriter songs. With the repetition of “I wish I was closer, Ill be watching over” the song seems to uphold the desire for the continuation of safety and life that have come from the end or the demise of a close relationship.
Piano based “Beneath The Streetlight and The Moon” continues the emotional pull. A crooning love song, Cooper laments, “I miss the way you look beneath the streetlight and the moon.” Unlike some of his other songs, this one has a lot of space between lyrics, breathing when the piano and the vocals come to a quiet rest. “In the Silence” brings about a little pick up in tempo, but still a structure that is minimal. Cooper’s soaring vocals fill every expanse of space, no doubt reflecting the “even after all of these years you are the light in my darkness” sentimentality in the song. “Momma’s Prayers” becomes the perfected ending to the album. Combining the instrumental experimentations of the previous songs with the relatable quality and realness of the later songs, the tune strikes the perfect balance. With an appearance from Stormzy the song also seems to add in every genre and flair that have been noted throughout Cooper’s career. A nice little way to round out the experience, “Momma’s Prayer” is that redemptive ending that delivers not only sonic gold but also a lovely message.
Raised Under Grey Skies is a sonic and lyrical exploration that seems to resonate deeply with JP Cooper’s life and experience. With such vulnerability Cooper exposes bits of himself, creating a truly emotional and pulling album. It is not all slow ballads and crooners, rather Cooper has created an album that also mixes genres and textures, creating a masterpiece of complexity. When listening to Raised Under Grey Skies you will no doubt partake on a journey with JP Cooper, ending with the hopeful exploration of all that tomorrow brings.
Review: Kylie McCormick