Originally hailing from Northern California, Jonathan Cavier has successfully imported the warm sunshine inherent to so much Golden State songwriting to his adopted home of Phoenix, Arizona. The twelve songs on his first release Premier confidently takes in a wide variety of musical styles from straight up tributes to 80’s Euro-pop, AOR guitar rock, surprising strains of classical music, and even a jolting slice of pop country to tickle listener’s fancies. There’s an old saying that “there’s something here for everyone”, but it isn’t a stretch applied to this release. Premier’s bold title lives up to its billing as this collection feels like nothing less than a statement of purpose from an artist who attends to be among us for years to come.
Premier opens impressively with “January”. Cavier serves immediate notice he is a songwriter to be reckoned with the song’s vivid and poetic lyrical content. He’s an equally fine interpreter of the material – there’s never a sense throughout the song that Cavier has anything less than an exquisitely considered touch with his phrasing. “Hope” has a strong, upward stride and bright guitars and keyboards arrayed in stirring melodic lines. Cavier seems to flex very little muscle to make this material work – in lesser hands, it might sound much more calculated, but Cavier makes it work in a very relaxed, natural fashion. Much of the lack of apparent contrivance, once again, can be ascribed to his unusually high level lyrical content. Writing about virtues such as hope can actually prove a daunting task – finding anything truly original to say on the subject is the providence of skillful songwriters, but the complete lack of artifice and uniquely personal perspective of this song proves Cavier can stand among the elite young songwriters working today.
“Comes a Moment” is the first of a few outright surprises on Premier. This is nothing less than top shelf pop country and thankfully falls on the quality side of that genre’s spectrum due to the ever-present degree of melodic sophistication. Cavier is capable of creating melodies that are sparklingly original while still hitting a chord of familiarity. “Burning Away” is, as its title implies, one of the more turbulent musical moments on Premier – it crackles with strong atmospherics attributable to a dramatic arrangement rather than ham-fisted gimmickry. The production on Premier is universally strong, but never so obtrusive that it distracts from the inherent qualities of the music. “Promise” has an ultra smooth delivery that never overexerts itself and, instead, settles into a nice pocket from the outset. Cavier fills the song with a warm, even smoky, vocal that never wavers, yet conveys all of the necessary emotion implied by the lyrics.
The final song on Premier, “Jupiter”, is Cavier’s last surprise for his new listeners. He steps back entirely here and, instead, opts to provide listeners with a concluding demonstration of his composing skills. This is a wonderfully compact classic piece with a supreme talent for invoking mood and a slow, deliberate pace that enables it to unveil its melodic wonders in an entertaining way. Premier is one of the most impressive debuts yet in 2016 and will be hard to beat over the remaining months. 9 out of 10 stars.
by Shannon Cowden
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