Sunday morning I awoke in a restless daze. I sought refuge in my iTunes library, but none was to be had. The insipid familiarity of my music library only aggravated my restive state, and I wandered through the day with my head in a cloud. Just as exasperation was turning to delirium, my phone lit up – a friend imploring me to check out this new artist out of Miami, Florida, named Austin Paul. Downloading his record was like a shot to the arm – an immediate kick of awesome. This Cloudy Mix was just released Friday, January 13, 2012, and it has quickly become my favorite record of the year to date.
This Cloudy Mix is a departure from the daily fair for Cowboys and Indians frontman, Austin Paul. At a mere 19 years old, he not only has a band but is also already releasing side projects. It seems this Miami native simply has melody running through his veins. A graduate of creative production from Miami Dade College, Paul wrote, recorded, produced, and mastered This Cloudy Mix inside the four walls of his bedroom.
With a pulsating, repetitive vibe, the production of This Cloudy Mix is reminiscent of a modern day Dark Side of the Moon – if less conceptually realized. It’s like Sufjan Stevens without the bi-polar acoustic/orchestral extremes, like Sam Sparro without the vocal gymnastics display, and like Empire of the Sun without the overproduction.
Insomuch as it’s like something else in certain respects, comparison is equally difficult to draw in others. Austin Paul has a producer’s ear for melding unexpected synth samples. Playful and spacy, the production is sometimes counterpoint to the serious and poetic lyrics. Songs like “These Cloudy Days” and “Learning/Searching” identify Paul as a producer in his own right – creative and daring, yet mainstream in his execution.
Lyrically, Paul identifies his Floridian environment as a prominent source of inspiration. His subjects (palm trees, cold fronts, bonfires) transport listeners to the sun-drenched shores of South Beach or Key West, yet his lyrics aren’t campy or theatrical; they’re about human relationships (just set in a tropical location). Furthermore, there is absolutely no brash element to his vocal performance – rather an indefinable attraction in its understated and subtle nature. He easily manipulates his dark timbre and natural baritone as he transitions into brilliant falsetto.
The record demonstrates the scope of Paul’s entire vocal range, but what’s more, This Cloudy Mix identifies Austin Paul as an artist to watch on his way up. “I Was Dancing With My Wolves” and “Sweet Dreams” are instant indie classics. I’d be surprised if he didn’t find himself on the soundtrack to the next Garden State or (500) Days of Summer. The vibe is simply perfect – the delineation of an artist who truly knows himself.
My personal favorite track off This Cloudy Mix is “Till You Feel This Heart Attack.” It’s a single, ready for radio (if not in America, then overseas). Listeners are met immediately with a bouncing, playful synth and can’t-help-but-shake-a-leg beat. With lyrical repetition, a melodic line that emphasizes rhythmic, staccato patterns, and Austin Paul’s signature downplayed vocals, the track is like the modern love child of Billy Idol and Prince.
All in all, Austin Paul’s first solo album, This Cloudy Mix, is a work ahead of its time. This newcomer is daringly unique to the American music scene. I can’t wait to see where his talent takes him as he leaves his teens and ascends the music world.