For fans of: Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Gibbard, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, James Taylor
The most powerful music is not always dependent on decibel level. In fact, more often than not the most stirring melodies come from a quiet place. There is an inherent accessibility to the soft and soulful singing of folk songwriters. Like tapping into an exposed nerve, the emotion is raw: thoughts and moods laid bare and vulnerable to an audience. It is the creation of a musical mirror, allowing listeners to see the similarities in sentiment and circumstance and recognize themselves in the performer’s words.
It is the connection in this intimacy that songwriter Joshua Baez strives for. As he says in his website’s bio, “I’m very passionate about music because I believe that music is a language that everyone speaks. We’ve all felt weak, helpless, alone, but with music, you suddenly don’t feel so alone. I want people to be able to connect with my music, to be able to relate to it. I want them to know that even when life is hard, it will get better. All you have to do is step back and breathe.”
Hailing from Bellevue, WA, Baez’s songwriting is certainly imbued with the spirit of the Pacific Northwest. If I were to choose a descriptor for his style, the first word that springs to mind is soothing. His warm and fluid baritone glides effortlessly over gently strummed acoustic guitar, evoking the style and sound of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. His recently released EP, Windows and Shutters, is a lush melodic trip through the songwriter’s mind and heart that would perfectly augment a rainy afternoon in Washington.
The record drifts: which is not to say it is listless, but rather that the material itself is intended to be deliberate and communicative. Baez takes his time, letting the rich tone of his guitar envelop you before he begins to convey his message to the listener. This results in an engaging and calming listening experience that is sure to put you at ease.
The dynamics to the EP, while minimalist, do speak to Baez’s style of artisanship. He is gentle, not heavy-handed. His voice and inflection are airy and delicate, his lyrics spill slowly like seeds flying off a dandelion. This floating vocal delivery is characteristic to other acts that Josh lists as influences, like Iron and Wine and Bon Iver. His songwriting is strong, his passion palpable and poetically rendered. He has a stellar sense of melody, with his haunting and ethereal vocal stylings being the strongest element of the record.
If you’re on the lookout for soulful, mellow and emotive folk songcraft then Windows and Shutters is certainly an album that you’ll want to explore. It is an excellent example of a swelling cry from a quiet place that breaks above the cacophony to connect with the listener. It boasts of wonderful things on the horizon for this young songwriter.