With so many albums little more than a collection of songs rushed out as soon as there is enough material to fill the space, it is a rare pleasure to find a record as lovingly crafted as Blake McKibben's debut.
This young, good-looking man from Portland, Oregon has produced a record that has taken all of two years' hard work to perfect.
'Haze' is an album that cannot be defined by any single style, but which still has a thread running through each and every track. As befits a record made entirely by one individual, every song is intensely personal, telling the stories of a man's life; both the highs and the lows.
Equally adept at turning his hand to rock, pop, folk or even hip-hop, McKibben uses every weapon in his musical armoury. But each style is just another reflection of his soul, and evidence of an enormous talent.
'Haze' is by turns catchy, heart-felt, funny and sad. McKibben covers every emotion of his young life, from the heartbreak of 'The Breakup Song' to the feel good jauntiness of 'You Lift Me Up', via the daily drudgery of working life, described perfectly in 'Another Day Another Dollar'.
But the standout tracks are the rawest, most soulful and most beautiful. The title track and 'I Wish I Could Thank You' both deal with the tragedy of losing a loved one. But out of that tragedy has come music that belies its creator's youth. Despite only being 26-years-old, McKibben has been involved in music for nearly two decades. He began by picking up the saxophone in front of his whole school at the age of 10 and was soon turning his hand to piano, drums, bass and anything he could lay his hands on.
He writes, records, performs and produces all of his music. And such total control has produced something that is genuinely unique. His influences include some of the most maverick artists of the last 40 years, including The Velvet Underground, Nine Inch Nails and Morphine. But 'Haze' is an album that is truly his own. Each song on the record offers something different, but it is as a whole that this album comes in to its own. If it's a sign of things to come, Blake McKibben has a very very long future.
I woke up in a blurry haze I must have been out for days running from love running from hope running from everything I know but I love her so I saved up for that diamond ring hoping that she'd be mine for sure cause you see she is everything for me in this world
I walk these streets thinking about what my life could be it feels so far away from me
it seems that we have finally lost all communication and relation from our lives why can't we just get along and let all the hatred clear our minds
I walk these streets thinking about what my life could be it feels so far away from me where are you going come back I'll never forget you…