Songwriters and musicians with truly transformative talents are scant in every generation. We can lionize past eras as halcyon days when giants walked the earth, but even then there existed a clear demarcation point between elite artists and the merely excellent. Their presentation and styles vary wildly, but they share one crucial element if none other – they pick up on the work of those who came before them, expand on its potential, and imbue it with an individual quality, a spark of self, that strikes an universal nerve in listeners. No small task. Patrick Doval’s single “In You” from his forthcoming full length album Broken is a song embodying that ambition in full effect. It’s the latest gem from a prolific independent artist five albums and twenty two music videos into a pursuit he began in 2008. His visual imagination has fueled the aforementioned video content and the song’s music video is a painterly feast for the eyes enhancing, but never obscuring, the listening experience.
It opens with memorable piano riffing, persistent and percussive. There is a palpable retro influence stamped on Doval’s music, but his lyrical content and vocal delivery are the key twists to his otherwise familiar approach. His take on those retro traditions, however, is singular and bubbles with color. It is impossible to deny the song’s exuberant vocal melody, though Doval artfully reigns in its energy during the bridge. The song has a crackling live sound – it isn’t any stretch to assume Doval and his collaborators cut the track in one take or two takes. Doval’s production for the tune frames its dynamics in a driving, yet never overwhelming, fashion. It definitely has an inexorable thrust while never sounding like it wants to blast listeners out of their chair.
Doval’s lyrics are an internal travelogue of longing and their straight-forward poetry is familiar, yet phrased unlike anything else you’ll hear – they are measured, yet suggestive, vague, yet specific. His writing aims to hit an universal chord for its listeners and will likely succeed striking it far more often than not. The words benefit enormously from a vocal elevating it several notches. Despite the capabilities of modern studio technology, there’s nothing to suggest Doval couldn’t deliver an impassioned, soulful vocal like this for live audiences and he inhabits the lyrics from the first with a command born from the conviction you have something intensely personal and powerful to share. It comes across through the gliding vocal melody lighting up the song with the sound of a singer fully inflamed by the act of creation.
Each listener, ultimately, makes their own judgment. Both “In You” and the impending release of Broken, for many, will mark a decisive turning point in an already impressive discography when Doval scales to a taller summit than ever before and shows no signs of slowing down. He has, undoubtedly however, scooped up the mantle from performers/bands as diverse as David Bowie and The Cure, among others, and his creative fire rages on undimmed at a point when lesser songwriters might be groping for new things to say.