Introduction: Andy Hunter! It’s been a good while since I’ve reviewed what I’d consider to be the most nostalgic artist of all time (for me, there’s an incredible bias here). Well, this one isn’t quite as nostalgic as the others as it had slipped under my radar when I’d first discovered Andy and all future albums hadn’t existed yet. But that doesn’t fully matter, because this album is still filled with nostalgic tracks that reach up to the highest heights of Andy Hunter’s production (sans Lifelight, nothing will beat Lifelight). There are definitely some beauties in here, that’s for certain. But enough talking vaguely about nostalgia. It’s time to get into the details of Colour (spelt in British because Andy Hunter is across the Atlantic from me, an American, but I like the British spelling anyway and shall be using it throughout the rest of this review).
Andy Hunter – Sound Pollution (9): Sound Pollution is, by far, the best introduction to any of the Andy Hunter albums. It does share a lot of similarities with Go, starting calmly and then slowly building up to a more intense energy ridden breakdown that hypes up the rest of the album. I will admit that Go, at first, does a better job with it’s beautiful strings and pounding heartbeat (this one starts with some nearly as beautiful ambience and perhaps some Morse code that someone who isn’t me can decipher).However, Sound Pollution easily takes the lead as soon as the song kicks into high gear. It’s cleaner, smoother, more energetic and simply a better produced introduction in every way. This song is dense with dozens of amazing moments and a variety that few songs can measure up to.
Listen to that Bassline roll in. Oh, it sounds just like Go at first, but this one sneaks up on you more quickly with some auditory artifacts crowding around as it builds up the energy towards its first switch up. Changing chord progressions, beat dropouts, new instruments introduced every couple of measures or so for a solid minute including a distorted groovy synth and a variation on the bassline that gives the song a brief breakdown every once and a while (and it’s fresh every time). There’s also a piano melody, a return of the strings which occasionally stab the song with some extra energy and a few synths complimenting the bassline. All this and I’m sure I’m forgetting something because this song is so incredibly dense it’s impossible to go over it all. And this all builds up in barely a minute and a half, not even a quarter of the song. It’s then that the vocals kick in, as all of the instruments dance around dropping the title of the song. And despite the incredible variety of noises and sounds intruding and possibly polluting this song, it all fuses together so well that it turns out to be an intricate masterpiece. The vocals are able to remain in the spotlight with every single other element of this song playing just as strongly. And the instrumental break about three quarters into the song is especially incredible with the breakdown leading ack into the chorus. This is one of the best introductions to an album I’ve ever heard
And this isn’t even the best song on the album. There is so much more to come.
Andy Hunter & Mark Underdown – Stars (5): But unfortunately, I will admit that this album isn’t perfect, there are a few songs in here that are clearly lesser than the rest in my book. Oh, they’re not bad. It’s just that about half of the songs are so incredible (or at least great) that they leave songs like this in the dust. Unfortunately, this is one of the more popular songs in the album. Or at least, it’s the one that spawned a remix EP with seven remixes on it.
But I guess it’s just the type of song that lends itself best to being remixed (though I think a Smile remix would be quite possible as well, and definitely better, but that’s simply my opinion. Also, I’m getting ahead of myself). To give credit where credit is due, Stars is still a beautiful song with some good piano and guitar melodies that create a safe relaxing vibe throughout the song. But there isn’t much special here. There are some decent vocals from Mark Underdown (redundant last name is kind of redundant, but sometimes that’s just the way it is), as well as some lyricless female vocals that provide an extra layer of beauty to the song, but neither of them really strike me as interesting. My guess is that I’ve probably because I’ve heard these vocals way too many times while shuffling through Andy Hunter’s discography. The only other song that comes close is the four versions of Spiral, but that’s half as many versions of Stars.
The lyrics due provide a bit more depth than many of the songs on this album which just blurt out the title of the song Mark concentrates on admiring the beauty of the world we live in, and I’ll admit his lyrics do a good job of illustrating the wonders of this world. It’s something I should appreciate more instead of holing myself up on the World Wide Web. They don’t go extremely in depth but it is still a good message that saves this song from feeling too mediocre.
I’ll give this song a slightly above average score to give it the benefit of the doubt due to my overconsumption of “the stars in the sky,” but in most cases (unless Phonat is involved), I’d probably skip this one.
Andy Hunter & Shaz Sparks – Shine (6.25): Shine begins with glorious beauty with a quick stab announcing the gorgeous ambience joined together with Shaz’s vocals… and that’s the best part of the song right there, great job.
Ok, the rest of the song is still good. Shaz’s vocals are pleasantly refreshing to listen to, even if they’re not extremely different from the vocals in Stars (for all I know she could be the same singer as Stars’ female vocals are uncredited). They encapsulate beauty quite well and fit quite well with the ambience and slight groove this song has. Plus, the bell melody that’s added in about a minute into the song. But what else is there to mention? What else is there to talk about?
Not exceptionally much. The few lyrics this song has don’t have much depth at all, focusing on only five words, one of which is, of course, the title of the song. There’s not really a problem with that as Sound Pollution didn’t have an exceptional amount of depth with its lyrics either and I absolutely love that one. But Shine just doesn’t have the musical moxy to measure up to Sound Pollution in the slightest, causing it to fade into the background in comparison to most of the other songs on this album.
Andy Hunter – Miracle (6.5): Miracle is… strange…
Andy Hunter isn’t one to delve into the strange trippy category as much as some of my other favorite artists like Infected Mushroom (who I’ve reviewed a bit in the past) or Bliss (who I haven’t reviewed at all but give me some time, I will eventually), but it looks like he’s taken the opportunity this time around to combine lay some meandering vocals (from an unknown source) over a throbbing bassline, a soft, sometimes tropical drumbeat and… a washing machine? It sure sounds like a washing machine to me. Overall, this makes for a stranger experience than any other Andy Hunter song I’ve reviewed except maybe Show… Nope, still weirder than Show, but this one is also a bit better due to consistent quality, even if that quality is weird. Also, there’s some strings in the second half that give the song some beauty after a half time portion with the bassline (which is a welcome break from the throbbing that takes place in most of the song).
The lyrics themselves are pretty surface level again. Think of it as a simpler rendition of Stars’ theme. Life is beautiful. It’s a miracle. That’s what this song is in a nutshell. Life is also weird sometimes, but that’s okay.
Andy Hunter – System Error (8.25): The past few songs haven’t quite lived up to the energy of Sound Pollution. Stars was pretty much a pop song. Shine was a relaxing tune going for beauty rather than energy. Miracle was… Miracle. But here we have System Error, and make no mistake, we’re back into the strongest energetic portion of the album. Well, it doesn’t quite measure up to the masterpiece that is Sound Pollution, but it does have to offer many similarities harkening back to the introductory song (and by harkening back, I mean barely even twenty minutes ago), but that certainly doesn’t stop it from standing on its own.
System Error, unsurprisingly, involves the most distortion and glitched out instruments in the entire album. There’s a robotic voice repeating the song’s title through much of the song, serving as the centerpiece alongside the equally prominent main melody, played by a slightly off synth, which I love. It gives me chills every time I hear it especially when it combos with the piano, the other prominent melody. Other than that, we’ve got a couple of simple basslines (one rolling up and down in pitch and the other just sending rapid-fire notes into the air), and the syncopated drumbeat that serves as the true heart of this song’s energy. Oh, and there’s also tons of record scratching, giving the song an extra glitchy effect for the road.
The highlight of the song is the middle portion, in which the song takes its calm and highlight some previously unheard piano and strings, before re-introducing the other harsher elements of the song, creating that blend I love between the two stand out melodies. Plus, the whole concept of this song being a system error is quite enjoyable. So, this song definitely has the privilege of temporarily stealing second place of the songs so far on this album.
Andy Hunter & Midge Ure – Smile (8.5): And then Smile came along, stealing second place just as quickly as System Error had originally received it. This one comes bit closer to overthrowing Sound Pollution, but it doesn’t quite come close enough to Sound Pollution to overthrow it. But that’s perfectly fine. Smile is an entirely different song.
First thing you might notice about this song is the strings. The strings are easily my favorite nonvocal element of the song (not that the vocals are better, it’s somewhat of a tie actually). Not only are they beautiful as always, but these ones have a quite interesting groove throughout much of the song. In the first half they only make their presence known in the verses and sparsely in the chorus. It’s just a few short notes of beauty here and there, some of them flowing a bit more once we get to the chorus. Just a nice bit of beauty to contrast with the groovier bassline.
However, things change a bit in the second half of the song as we enter the bridge. No longer content to play only simple notes, the violin sees an area of silence between the vocals and grasps that chance to let its true beauty shine (no pun intended). Sure, it lets a short melody take the spotlight for a brief bit, but following that, it’s all long flowing notes from the violin leading into the chorus and then closing the song out. All in all, it’s a creative blend of beauty and funk: Beaunk… Nope don’t like that portmanteau. Moving on.
As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, Smile has vocals. Not a minimal couple lines like most of the songs you’ve heard so far. You’ll need more than your two hands to count all the lines this song has to offer in comparison to the one hand needed for most of the songs so far. I mean, Stars has some variety in the lyrics department as well, but I’d rather not think of that song any more than I have to. The vocal performance in this one is much stronger anyway (though not the strongest in the album). The chorus is especially impressive as it contains a duality between two different singers, Andy (unless I’m wrong and that’s just Midge again) in the foreground and Midge in the back. It creates a nice echoed feeling to the main line of the song (which is “smiling” not smile as you’d expect). And both still have a unique feel to their performance, with Midge, being the better singer, reaching for much higher notes (high enough that I can’t properly handle so I’m just sitting back admiring the range) and Andy (unless I’m wrong and that’s just another recording of Midge as I’ve questioned before) aiming for a more mellow sound to carry the song.
This is a feel-good song, as you’d expect from such a positive title, so I’ll admit it’s not exactly my forte. The song definitely presents a Christian message that Andy Hunter uses throughout much of his discography (though sometimes in vaguer ways than others). It’s a rather simple one this time, focusing on the positive emotional influence God has on his life. Other songs in the future may get a little deeper in their lyrics, which may prove to be better. Is Smile about to lose its second place?
Andy Hunter & D’Morgan – Technicolour (9.5): Yup. Just as soon as Smile stole second place from System Error. Technicolour bumps it down to third. But this time is different. Technicolour isn’t stealing second place. Technicolour is the absolute best song on this album, my second favorite in the entire Andy Hunter discography. Lifelight still holds first place there and there is another song later in this album that comes very close (same rating, but not quite the same quality), but now is the time for Technicolour to shine (not the song) in the spotlight.
Everything that was fun about Smile has been multiplied tenfold. The groovy bassline now has a new energy, keeping up with an energetic drumbeat (which is somehow roughly the same tempo but feels significantly faster), with several subtle synths, including arps and your usual rolling bass synth. Oh, and if you want some true groove, you just gotta look at that guitar, which makes up much of the funk this song has to offer. The only thing Smile has over Technicolour is superior strings. But Technicolour has something else that more than makes up for it.
For the real star of the show is undeniably D’morgan’s vocals, this time not on par with the strings at all, but exceeding them. I have never in my life heard anyone have so much fun singing a song. The first signs of D’Morgan appear int the intro of the song, echoing slightly along with the rest of the instruments as they develop (mostly the basslines), but when he truly begins to receive a spotlight, he starts so calmly that doesn’t show any hint of what’s to come. The comparatively soft spoken verse are immediately taken over by a much more energetic and passionate chorus that follows the same groove as the rest of the song, making the quality of every single element to be quite equal.
But then we get to the bridge. The bridge changes everything. There is so much passion in these increasingly dynamic vocals. Reaching heights that I can’t help but get caught up in his zest for the music. I mean, there’s absolutely no way, my voice can do anything that D’Morgan is doing here. But I sure try (and fail). And that bridge isn’t even the limit of D’morgan’s power. After another Chorus, he immerses himself into the best vocal portion on the entire album.
As for lyrics, we’ve finally reached a song having to do with Colour. Took us long enough. Most of the lines in here do depict the more negative aspects of life, with blue likely referring to depression and black and white referring to the apathy that follows. But the song isn’t fully bleak as the ideal technicolour life remains in reach, allowing for a truly meaningful and fulfilling existence. And as he stops his search for answers in the dark and steps into the light, that technicolour world becomes a reality, changing his life for the insanely better.
Good meaningful lyrics, but the sound design and vocal performance outshine everything else.
Andy Hunter – Together (5.5): Unfortunately, the streak of fantastic music must come to a close. The last three songs were all amazing, especially the unforgettable Technicolour, but this one is the exact opposite. Together is forgettable. I’m not saying it’s bad or the worst on the album (though probably the reason I hold it above Stars is that Stars is unforgettable in how average it is and how many times I’ve heard it). Together is truly inoffensive though. The music is simple, focusing almost exclusively on ambience and one melody. There are admittedly some strings in the second half that provide a little bit of variety, but it’s not enough to save the song.
There are vocals though!… I don’t care for them. The vocal performance is rather flat (or maybe that’s because I just listened to the dynamic Technicolour) and the lyrics are practically empty of meaning. It’s a very simple love song not unlike the simplicity of Wonderful from the last album. But at least Wonderful had something interesting about it.
This has nothing.
Andy Hunter & Cathy Burton – Fade (8): Now, if you want you calm relaxing track to have meaning and display some true beauty, then this is the song for you. Fade is gorgeous. The strings at the beginning take on the other end of the emotional spectrum compared to how they were used in Smile and Technicolour. Here, it’s not used for energy or groove, but for its sheer beauty and soothing tone of relaxation. Paired with subtle echoing drums and some Gorgeous vocals from Cathy Burton (who you may or may not remember from Translucent off of the Exodus album I’d reviewed.
Speaking of comparisons to songs off of Exodus, I am noticing there is an amount of bass in this song that stands out a slight bit among the other relaxing beautiful elements that this song has. And if you’re a hardcore Red Hat Reviews fan, you may remember that back in that Exodus review, I’d referred to Show as the worst song in Andy Hunter’s discography due to it’s clashing basslines ruining it’s attempts at creating an otherwise relaxing track. But that was because the sound design refused to mesh well (and there was that annoying little beep that irked me so much every time it appeared).
But this bassline works. It meshes quite well with the sound design only coming to the forefront in short rising spurts that fit well with the rest of the soundscape. They don’t feel like they’re interrupting or overwhelming the rest of the song. They don’t feel like a distraction or an unnecessary detour from the song’s mood. It’s just an extra bit of flavor in the verses that also appears subtly in the chorus.
But most importantly is the emotional meaning behind these lyrics. This one is probably one of the more undeniably religious songs on the album along with Smile and You. There is definitely a correlation between the darkness that occurs when the colour fades and the darkness that overtakes one’s life when one wanders from God and the peace one finds when they return. Seeing as peace is what I’d consider to be one of my main goals in life, I do quite enjoy this song. True peace is hard to come by, especially these days…
Overall, Fade is definitely a solid song and proves to be one of the most soothing and relaxing.
Andy Hunter – Sapphire (9.75): But then there’s Sapphire. Sapphire is absolutely gorgeous and probably one of the most soothing tracks I’ve ever heard in my life. It is also very difficult to review. Sapphire is a pure feeling. There are some vocals in there, though not lyrical. There’s a beautiful collection of piano melodies that make up the majority of the emotional impact that this song has as it climbs towards the end (though the vocals definitely help). And there’s a slow solemnly soft drumbeat and some deep ambience to back it all up.
But how do I truly describe Sapphire. How can I capture the immense beauty and peace of this track and put it into words? How do I truly explain how this song always can bring me to a stable state of mind whenever I listen to it? To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. This song isn’t just a piece of music. It is an emotion. It is the closest thing to peace that I’ve ever heard.
Listening to this more and more, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was wrong about saying Technicolour was my second favorite song of Andy Hunter’s. I was wrong to say that this song didn’t quite measure up to Technicolour. Because this song is absolutely beautiful and the only thing that can hold a candle to Lifelight.
Andy Hunter – Out of Control (7.5): And now for, something completely different. It’s funny how the most relaxing song on the album is immediately followed by what is possibly the most energetic song on the album. Just as the title would suggest, Out of Control is quite out of control in comparison to many of the other songs in this album. It starts off immediately with an oscillating synth that sounds like a soft siren of sorts, politely warning of the quick paced action up ahead. What quick paced action? Why the main bassline of course! The bassline is thrown into the song almost immediately after the sirens start to blare (softly). is fast, with an almost arpeggiated feel to it. Sure, it starts off soft, but it ends up building up to the become the backbone to the most energetic track on the album (sans Sound Pollution, that one’s hard to beat), especially when it starts rolling out the chord progression.
But the bassline isn’t my favorite part. You know what I love? Those vocals. I mean the name drop isn’t too special other than the fact that I like the distorted tone and all, but those da-da-da-da-da-das are incredibly enjoyable. They’ve got a groove to them and an overall fun tone. Really gives that song the bit of flavor it needs. There’s another melody in there as well which helps round out the song, but I don’t really have much to say about it other than the fact that I don’t have much to say about it…
Andy Hunter – You (6.25): And so, for our album’s finale we have You. Not You, the reader. You, the song. It’s a decent song. Certainly not bad at all. It’s definitely more memorable than… Not Separated? That was, the name of the song, right? Ah well, that’s irrelevant. What’s important is that this song now is a bit more memorable than whatever it was I was just talking about a second ago, but I wouldn’t come to this album specifically for this song.
See, this song does have some stuff to offer. It does follow somewhat of a similar structure to the beginning of Out of Control at first. But let me be clear, I’m only talking about the first bit. You know the drill. Start with some kind of fitting ambience and then introduce a decently bassline that you can buildup over time. At about a minute in, switch it up by adding a chord progression. And after that? Uh… hmmmm… a piano melody would be nice. I do love me a good piano melody. A piano melody can often be the highlight of a song such as this one. Probably drop out the beat for the first bit of that piano melody so it can get some good focus. Maybe add a few synths in there as the song is approaching its end, providing a last-minute touch-up of variety. Nothing too significant though. Keep the song consistent, you know?
What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, You. Not You, the person reading this review, but You, the conclusive song of Andy Hunter’s third album. Hmmmm. Well it’s a bit long, first of all, longest song on the album actually, clocking at about seven minutes. I honestly don’t think it deserves such a length as it doesn’t go on all that much of a journey to justify that time. This song could have done just fine as a song of about four or five minutes (making Sound Pollution and Technicolour the longest songs on the album, which sounds perfectly fine to me). There are some vocals in there as well, depicting some vague worship lyrics that do nothing more than declare God the eternal trinity. It’s a fine song, but considering that there are three songs in this album that reach a score of 9 and higher, this one will go down as being kind of forgettable but not as forgettable as that other song I reviewed not long ago called “Two Things in the Same Place”… Yeah, that must have been what it was called.
Conclusion: This is probably the most divided of the Andy Hunter albums for me. Sure, neither of the previous ones were perfect. Exodus had Show, and Life had Open My Eyes… Actually, Open My Eyes was pretty decent, it just paled in comparison to the rest of the album as that was Andy Hunter’s best (and I could have probably given that more love than I did despite it already being my top-rated album so far).
But Colour had multiple flops. Stars and Together were painfully average. And Shine and You didn’t really fare that much better. And yet, there were also several gems on this album too, from the spectacular intro that is Sound Pollution to the overwhelmingly groovy Technicolour to the captivatingly beautiful Sapphire. Those songs truly deserve better. But as it is, this album does dip in quality from Life. Not to low. I’m rating it the same as Genesis, but it’s clear that Life was the highlight of Andy Hunter’s career.
Final Score: (7.5/10)