Personal update: I'm trying to get back into the groove of going to at least two shows a week. I'm also I really exhausted from all the emails we get about bands I've never heard of and will most likely will never hear of because they're just "okay". To combat this, I've mostly been ignoring the majority of the emails that I get and just digging around the internet to find things on my own. Back in the day, I used to wander around record stores looking at album artwork and taking chances on art that I felt the most connected to and either give them a listen if they were at the listening bar or just straight up buy the album and take a chance. I found a lot of great music this way (VHS or Beta, Josh Rouse, Junior Jack, etc.).
I started doing this again fairly recently on Rdio and Spotify for every New Music Tuesday. I just scroll around and look for things that are interesting and give them a try. It's less sexy than the thrill of buying an album and being like, "God I hope this is good," but whatever. This is how I stumbled across Wrabel (pronounnced RAY-bell, at first I thought it was rabble, lol) about a month ago. Purely judging a book by its cover, his EP, Sideways, felt familiar. I think it's because he looks like an American version of Mr. Hudson to me. Familiarity has continued to be an ongoing theme for me with Wrabel. His voice, subject matter, etc. all sounds and feels very familiar. Kind of like I've always known him. Obviously since you are reading this post he clearly was able to tick all the boxes I require to decide to keep tabs on him.
After adding him to my extensive Twitter list to keep an eye on him, I noticed he was playing a show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. We should get one thing clear: I love Bowery Ballroom more than anything in this world, but there's something about Rockwood Music Hall (both original and stage 2) that holds a special place in my heart. A chance to experience any artist at Rockwood is a thing you should always do, so I decided to venture solo to see how an intimate performance from this newcomer would pan out.
First things first, this guy's voice is nothing short of solid. Dude has a very strong set of pipes that probably need little to no pitch correction in the studio or anything like that, so much respect in that sense. I soaked in every last second of him pounding away on the piano and serenading a disappointly semi-empty room sipping some white wine, a true "This Is Why I Love Rockwood" kind of moment. It must have been a weird juxtaposition for him though considering he casually mentioned at one point between songs that the night prior he performed "10 Feet Tall" alongside Afrojack at Fashion Rocks over at the Barclays Center, but he never made it feel that way in terms of his performance. Between songs he was very friendly and laid back. At one point he even joked, "My mom keeps telling me to write happy songs and I was like, 'I wrote one!'" It's refreshing for me to know that although he was fairly recently signed to Island that it hasn't gone to his head. It's a shame that that's an exception and not the standard.
Wrabel performing at Fashion Rocks at Barclays Center, September 8, 2014. Source: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images North America
As I headed home last night, I put on Sideways to refresh myself on the recorded version of what I had just heard. I started feeling the parallel with him and Mr. Hudson again like the day that I first stumbled across him. Remember before his Kayne moment with Straight No Chaser when he was Mr. Hudson and The Library and had a sound of his own that he could really dig into (a la A Tale Of Two Cities)? I worry that the direction in terms of sound that they're nudging him into is going to get him lost into the Flavor of the Week pile. It's both a blessing and a curse that his voice has moments of Chris Martin, Sam Smith, and Landon Pigg, with hints of Mat Kearney peppered throughout. It's my hope for him that Island didn't just go, "Oh crap, we need a Sam Smith! Ooo! This guy seems nice. *SIGNS*" I don't mind the synthy bits in "Sideways". I get that bassy EDM + pretty vocals on top = Ca$h Money Hoe$ right now. I guess my hope is that as he assumingly starts working on his debut full length that he doesn't allow himself to get overwhelmed by people trying to tell him to be trendy for the sake of moving units this moment. Or that if he does that he knows exactly what he's doing and plans to be in the spotlight for 4 seconds and then when he has a pile of money he just runs off and does whatever the heck he wants.
Fact of the matter is, Wrabel is a voice your ears need to hear and I think if he plays his cards right that he will be staying around with us for awhile.
Wrabel is on the internet in various places like Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud. Follow/like/add as you will. His debut EPSideways is available for purchase on iTunes if you're into that as well.