Connecticut based singer/songwriter and guitarist Kevin Carroll recorded his debut album The New You in his soundproofed living room with only the assistance of his friend Joey Conception. The results recall Carroll’s initial nineties alt-rock influences like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, but there’s a hard-edged metal side rising to the fore at a number of key points and Carroll isn’t beyond stretching out for some more thoughtful, atmospheric textures that refrain from a full on guitar assault. This isn’t a musician or songwriter who limits himself; despite the power the songs often wield, there’s never a lack of thoughtfulness or reflection influencing the songwriting and playing in some fashion. There isn’t an abundance of delicacy, but there’s no question that The New You is an intimate album and there’s plenty of evidence for that in the three of its songs included on Carroll’s Soundcloud web page.
The first of these three songs, “A Picture Perfect Jealousy Issue”, aims to blow out your speakers from the first seconds on. It’s quite a testament to Carroll’s talents how, despite a furious guitar assault firing off all around him, his strong voice still comes through with shocking clarity and tremendous emotional force. There’s some particularly scintillating lead guitar strewn throughout the song, but it never goes overboard and has a pointed purpose in serving the song. The lyrics have a personal, hard-nosed quality about them and reflect a lot of desperation associated with its subject matter. The song ends with a surprisingly dissonant, scattered coda that gives the impression of a flickering fire just before burning out.
“The Higher I Get with You” is just as hard-hitting as the opener and foregoes any hint of sensitivity. Instead, Carroll delivers arguably his best solo vocal of the three songs and the arrangement makes great use of a few dramatic turns and brief tempo shifts. There’s definitely a strong alternative rock influence here, but this song rocks convincingly as metal too. It’s his singing, however, that really sells the song with its sandpaper gravitas and emotive quality during a number of passages. “In the Commercials” makes use of the same open-ended conclusion heard on “A Picture Perfect Jealousy Issue”, but the rest of the song shows infinitely more variety. Despite running a little under three minutes in length, he manages to pack this song with an assortment of tempo shifts and memorable riffs, yet there’s an epic quality possibly derived from that restlessness that makes it a memorable end for this review. Kevin Carroll’s talents are unquestionable. There have been too few honest to God purveyors of alternative rock, nineties style, who have emerged in the last fifteen years capable of breathing new life into the genre. Carroll proves himself up to the task with these three songs and his debut album certainly shapes up to be a blockbuster debut.
by Lydia Hillenburg