I have been saying all year long that this album from California born Curtis Peoples was going to hold onto a spot in the top 5. I heard parts of this album very early on in the year, but the release date was not until late August. This album came out with a tour followed by a few more with Curtis, Tony Lucca, Todd Carey, Tyler Hilton, and some others. It seems that when one of those guys goes on tour you can bet you will see a handful of the others too. It really is one big happy family and I am glad to be able to consider myself a friend of everyone on that list.
Curtis and I have been good friends for quite a long time now and I have always seen something in his music. His lyrics, his ability to just crush strings on a guitar, and his pure stage presence is one for bigger stages than I have seen him on. I actually had the chance to bring Curtis to Indianapolis for the first time a few years ago. He played a show with Dave Yaden and Trey Locerkbie. It was at an old venue called the Rouge. The stage was small, the turn out was not what we had wanted it to be, but it broke him into the city. He has since played numerous shows with both Locals Only and Birdy’s and quickly becoming a household name in the city.
But besides all of that, I had to put Curtis in the top 5 this year. There are so many albums that came out this year that were the make or break albums for big artists including Kanye West, The Killers, The All American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, Pink, and many many others. Some were successful. Some were not. You will see a couple of those appear on the upcoming lists.
But Curtis has been able to put together an album that will go down as some of his best work. I say that loosely; Curtis being so young and always having the ability to shock me. But I will stand next to this album any day of the week.
(Just so you know, while I am writing each of these posts, I will be listening to the album at the same time. I feel that I have to be in the moment, feel the songs, understand the lyrics, and let the voice of the artist scream to me while I write about their hard work and music.)
This album starts out with an almost power ballad that puts your foot to the floor and your mind in a coffee shop. Curtis has actually described his music as “coffee shop arena rock”. And that can not be too far from the perfect description. You can tell in the writing and the story telling where Curtis gets his inspiration from as well He names the Beatles as being his holy grail and if the way he can slam 45 minutes of a story into 3 isn’t enough, the logo tattoo on his arm is.
The main reasons why this album is so effective to me is the songwriting. He has the ability to get you in his shoes and walk around his hurt and pain for a while. There is no way that lyrics like this come from creativity. They come directly from experience. They come from broken hearts. They come from tear drops and whiskey. Curtis is young, too. So to think that he has been able to write lyrics you would expect from Willie Nelson speaks a lot to his ability as a songwriter.
This album does a lot for me as well with the way it is not one solid theme all the way across. He takes you on a roller coaster ride from pop dance grooves that you can’t help but get out of your seat to the hold your lighter in the air epic. I am reminded of a show I saw a few years ago at Verizon Wireless Music Center here in Indianapolis. They turned the lights all out and asked for the audience to hold up lighters and cell phones. The crowd was sold out and there was enough light from all of this that the band played an entire song sans lights. I can see this exact same thing happening with him in the future. (He might have already done this, who knows.)
I have heard a lot of people claim Curtis has an almost Disney sound about him. I have to disagree. I feel that, even though he looks like one of the Jonas Brothers, that he is a little bit more mature in his writing than anything on the Disney label. He writes from somewhere that everyone has been. He writes music that matters; songs that you can hear at your wedding.
This album, as a whole, is one that you have to appreciate the genre. You are more than likely not going to see him full band if you see him live. You will see an acoustic guitar playing the same songs as on the album. They are different, there is no question, but not any less good. But if you do get the chance to hear him full band you will hear the exact same things as you do on this album. And that speaks a lot to an artist outside the quality of an album. I saw Anberlin (one of my favorite bands of all time) a few years ago in Chicago. They sounded so bad that I wanted to leave. I was so upset that they could sound so different than their album and that they have the power of studio work to sound good that I almost wanted to stop listening to them all together. I did not, as I think their most recent album is the best one they will ever record both lyrics wise and smoothness. I did see them again on Warped Tour this past year and they were incredible. Totally changed my mind about them as a band. But anyway, this is not about Anberlin.
The best track on Curtis’s album comes in with Holding Me Down. It has an immediate guitar solo and he jumps right into the story. With lines like “Oh I feel like leaving because you’re holding me down. Wrapped up in chains because you’re holding me down,” just get your fists pumping in the air. All I can do is just go back to the lyrics. I mean, sure, being a proclaimed singer songwriter you have to sort of rely on your lyrics to get you where others can not go, but his writing is just on a whole other level.
If you take the time to sit and listen to this understand where he is coming from. Hear the pain in his voice. Hear the hurt behind his guitar. Picture him screaming into the microphone with his eyes closed and sweat running down his forehead. Feel his pain in every song. I can not get over how incredible this album is as a track for track list of stories.
I wrote an article for the magazine that I write for about Curtis and this album. It was more of a review for reader’s sake but it serves a similar purpose. I also had the chance to sit down with him for a one on one interview. You can check both those out on the site. Also, you can listen to some samples of his work and see his tour schedule by clicking on the album cover above.
I highly recommend his music to you. Experience the difference from your every day singer songwriter to someone that has a future in this insanely competitive business. I wish him absolutely nothing but the best in his future. He is going somewhere. I just hope it’s sooner than later. And I truly believe that this album can help him get there. Just don’t forget the little people Curtis.