Young Virginia-based college student Joseph Keith has begun down a very familiar road of the American singer/songwriter, and with some recorded material under his belt, is ready to drop his new LP Winter through independent channels very soon. Given the opportunity to spend some time with Mr. Keith and his music, I came away from Winter feeling like I had just spent a season, a little warmer perhaps, with the memories of my own loves, both lost and found. Joseph creates a simple, pop-centric format and layers it with his graceful voice and direct lyrical contemplations, making for an emotional soundscape that is as soothing as it is occasionally depressing by nature.
This is the nature of love; and that love shines through Keith’s music in both his apparent skill at crafting catchy tunes and deep well of lyrical inspiration, perhaps (most likely) from his own personal experiences. There is a real closeness on the record that immediately sets Winter above a host of other solo artists’ efforts, a relativity that coexists with the sometimes safe routes Joseph takes musically. Yes, the Maroon 5 mention in the “TIYL” section is very loose, as Keith is far from the bubbly pop of that group, but the foundation for most of Winter is a twangy sort of alternative country-pop, relative to a host of others, but easily distinguishable via his breezy voice and intricately woven tales. It is in the words that Winter is truly felt; in the music, a nice enough backdrop, but in my humble opinion, played a little too close to the vest for a musician who shows several times (“Don’t Want To Fight”, “Name”, and my personal favorite, the title track “Winter”) that he is capable of so much more.
Overall, the verdict is a fine one, as Joseph Keith keeps you engaged regardless of the relative shortcomings of simplistic pop songwriting. This isn’t so much a general weakness as a personal preference, so by all means, if the soft and sultry sounds of a John Mayer or the emotive acoustic longings of Bright Eyes are amongst your interests, give Winter a good, long look; it just may be the album you’ll enjoy the most in 2014. Being purely a fan of the latter, I can easily recommend it on those emotionally pulling merits alone.