I openly admit, I am a sucker for well done, melodic pop music. As much as I enjoy other, more challenging and esoteric forms of music as well, give me a warm, swooning pop song done right and I'm sold. Well, here's an album filled with ten of them, as Andrew Belle delivers not just a pop masterpiece, but one of 2010's best albums, period.
Born just outside of Chicago in Wheaton, Illinois, but now residing in Nashville, Belle released the EP "All The Pretty Lights" in late 2008, but "The Ladder" is his debut full length. It's chock full of mid-tempo pop confections, often based on the bedrock of guitar (both acoustic and electric), bass and drums, but with welcome additions such as strings and banjo.
The title track kicks things off, a plucked banjo in the mix while Belle's unique vocal phrasing draws you in. There's been plenty of comparisons to everyone from Coldplay's Chris Martin to Isaac Slade of The Fray, but Belle brings enough of his own personal style to the vocals and the music to differentiate himself from those artists.
There is not a bad song here, but highlights include "Add It Up", a downtempo soundtrack to an overcast fall day with lovely string arrangements, the short but sweet acoustic guitar and piano piece "Reach", with more jangling banjo and a pounding drum beat, and the album's one true ballad, the string-laden "Oh My Stars".
As good as everything on here is an album always has a stand-out track, and here it comes in the form of "Static Waves", a duet with Colorado singer-songwriter Katie Herzig. As Herzig sings "I would have let you leave", Belle's vocals dance all around her in a melody from the heavens as strings sweep around them both. I simply cannot stop playing this song, a brilliant piece of pop music.
"The Ladder" seems destined for my Top Ten of 2010. As good as Belle is at writing memorable melodies, he's just as good as a lyricist, and that is what seals the deal for him as an artist to watch. It's always tough to maintain such a high level of quality when you hit a home run with your debut release. With good reason, I don't think Andrew Belle will have that problem. Introduce yourself to his music. Highly recommended.
"The Ladder" was released February 24, 2010 in the U.S. on 1L Music.