Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

TJ McCloud-Kind of Life

January 1, 2006

mccloudBand Name: TJ McCloud

Album Name: Kind of Life

Best Element: Amazing voice.

Genre: Pop-folk

Website: www.tjmccloud.com

Label Name: n/a

Band E-mail: tj@tjmccloud.com

New projects that occur after a successful band has broken up usually have everything to do with the last sound or nothing to do with it. In addition to that, new projects either completely forsake that they were in a previous band, barely mention it, or embrace the fact with open arms. If a new project doesn’t want you to know they were in a previous band, I usually won’t bring it up in a review.

TJ McCloud was one of the songwriters for the extremely popular Midwestern folk/pop group Stephen Speaks. He and Rockwell Ryan Ripperger were the heads behind the project, and when the band broke up unexpectedly, nobody knew what to expect out of either man.

TJ McCloud’s most recent album Kind of Life is the sort of album that will thrill fans of Stephen Speaks, but leave everyone else let down and a little bit annoyed. McCloud knows this- he even reworks one of Stephen Speaks’ most popular tunes in “Out of My League.” Therefore, I make no apologies for mentioning Stephen Speaks because he makes no bones about mentioning it either.

The sound of this album falls squarely in the genre of upbeat pop/folk- in fact, it’s what Caedmon’s Call would sound like if they didn’t have any of their signature downer tracks. That’s precisely what Kind of Life misses- heavier, deeper tracks. Every song on the album feels like an anthem, whether it’s an anthemic love song, an anthemic “I miss you” song, or an anthemic worship song. While that’s what we had come to expect from Stephen Speaks, it’s not as effective in McCloud’s solo work because the production is so amazingly clean. In Stephen Speaks’ sound, there was some grit around the edges- there was some genuine tension created. On Kind of Life, everything after “Out of My League” starts to blend together into one song, because nothing was left to fend for itself- everything has been seamlessly orchestrated to the point of taking the life out of some of the songs.

This is not to say that the album is bad. McCloud has a gifted voice- the type of voice that makes other artists jealous. It’s tender, and it emotes extremely well- none of this whiny emo voice crap. His voice is amazing. If you’re a fan of vocals alone, or of love songs, then this album is right up your alley. He’s got that covered.

The bottom line is that if you like this album, you’ll love it, and if you don’t like this album, you’ll hate it. If you liked Stephen Speaks or like Caedmon’s Call, you’ll love it. I’m disappointed that there isn’t more stylistic difference from Stephen Speaks, but that’s life. Once McCloud’s songwriting progresses a little more and he drops some of the hyper-produced sheen, he will have a great thing on his hands. I’d love to hear some of these tracks on a solo guitar with no extra touches….I think that would do a lot of good for some of these tracks.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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