Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Natalie Estes - 20/20 Vision (2017)

Written by Ed Price, posted by blog admin

Natalie Estes’ four song EP collection 20/20 Vision heralds the emergence of a truly diverse talent capable of staking out a claim as one of the most promising vocalists working today. Young performers, singers or musicians, often arrive with rough edges still intact and those are only chipped away over time. There are much rarer cases, however, where a new performer comes out seemingly a fully finished product and ready for the biggest of stages. Estes falls in the second category. The four songs on her EP aspire to a surprising amount of stylistic diversity that’s shocking for a relatively brief collection. Estes is a Nashville native who didn’t immediately gravitate towards music, her first love being dance, but hearing Adele’s cover of Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” during her high school years sparked a fire in her that seems to be glowing now with enormous heat and intensity.

The build for the opener, “Until I Do”, is nothing short of magnificent. The lyrical content has a hint of titillation and equates the experience of longing with addiction. It isn’t particularly new lyrical ground to turn over, but the actual writing snaps with such a lean, economical bite that it redeems any overly familiar aspects of the songwriting’s themes. It seems a little too cliché to deem her vocal performance sultry, but this quality is in increasingly short supply in our modern era and her evocative tone really embodies the song’s narrative in a dramatic way. The intimacy of this performance will excite many listeners. As great as that opener is, however, “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” is even better. This is the sort of big show stopping, cinematic number that most singers and pop performers aspire to latching onto for their entire careers and it makes a tremendous impact from the first. The backing vocals here make Estes’ strong belt even more memorable and the muscular recording is one of the best production moments on 20/20 Vision. Like the rest of the material, the songwriting and Estes’ vocal performance makes great use of sympathetic dynamics that make the song take on an even grander air than it might otherwise possess.

“Reminds Me of You”, the EP’s penultimate track, is much more in the mode of traditional balladry, but Estes excels here as well. There’s a gentleness that mixes with her customary intimacy to nice effect and it’s equally complemented well by the artfully turned piano work. The final number “Bad Game” has, perhaps, more attitude than the previous three numbers combined and Estes tears into the lyrics with all the zest they deserve. It’s an exclamation point ending on a fantastic EP that few young performers today can hope to equal. 20/20 Vision may be brief, but the four songs included on this release pack more of a punch than many full length efforts ever harbor.

Grade: A

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