Michael Seary feat. Luke Cusato
Can’t Say It Back
Can’t Say It Back is available at:
5th January, 2016
Electronic; Soul; D&B
ONE of the last reviews I shall do for a while…
gives me the opportunity to assess collaborations in the music industry; the great male voices coming through- in addition to Electronic fusions happening right now. It is great discovering bands and solo acts. Each new act provides something different and special; when you get acts that are go that extra mile and produce something special: that can lead to wonderment and some stunning realisations. Given the recent passing of David Bowie (that has affected so many people) I have been rethinking music and what it means to be. Trawling through archived interviews and songs, it has been great to connect with an artist that means so much to people; his music has that enduring affect. Listening to Bowie speak about music and how it connects with people, it is sad listening to him now; he had such foresight and passion: few artists like Bowie exist now and have that same authority. The important thing about new music (from a reviewer’s perspective) is spending time on music that matters and distinctions; ignoring those that do not really hit the mark. With the music world becoming saturated and overwhelmed with new talent, it can make quality control very difficult indeed; lead to a lot of confusion and doubt. So many musicians are not being daring or original (one of the biggest flaws of music today) and the art of collaboration is being overlooked largely. I understand musicians need to take control and present their own sounds. When you bring other talent into the mix- without taking away and distilling your unique talent- you can come up with something truly special; the general public want to discover music that takes them by surprise. A lot D.J.s and producers bring in vocalists to their music as it gives it flesh and a human voice. When you get two (perhaps disparate) talents combining forces; this can produce music of the highest order. What I love hearing is a background/composition that has energy and verve; music that does something to your head and mind- finished with a vocal that does something to the heart and soul. Before continuing on my point- whilst raising one or two others- let me introduce you to my featured act:
Michael Seary is a 24-year-old musician, producer and DJ that is fast becoming one of the hottest prospects from Liverpool’s underground scene, discovered through Liverpool International Music Festival’s Academy in 2015.
Michael Seary’s debut single “Can’t Say It Back” is a soulful-D&B infused electronic hybrid, which sees him link with one of the city’s best vocalists, Luke Cusato. Both have been heavily tipped for the top by various regional platforms including BBC Introducing, Radio 1Xtra, XFM, The Skinny and LIMF Academy.
“I want people to feel a strong emotion when they hear my songs” explains Michael Seary, “Hopefully ‘Can’t Say It Back’ conveys that musically and lyrically. In this case, the painful feeling of knowing you are going to break the heart of someone special”
Seary is a name that has been producing music for a long time; one of the most respected musicians and producers around the moment- in a city that has its fair share of great talent- his latest cut draws in the silky and smooth voice of Luke Cusato: a singer with a huge range and a desire to seduce the listening audience fully. I am not sure what compelled the two to come together- whether they are old friends or connected via social media- but there is a definite connection and understanding. Seary is a very distinct and assured producer/artist; never relents and compromises at all, so he needed someone to come on board that could understand that and fit into that mould. Many singers out there would approach a song like Can’t Say It Back with nerves and uncertainty- perhaps not do the subject matter justice- and the collaboration would sound forced and ill-fitting. Cusato seems completely right and natural within Seary’s sounds and drive: the two bond supremely and elicit music that demands a lot of attention and thought. Last year there were some great male solo voices coming through; each had a distinct personality and appeal to them. From Sam Smith to Jamie xx; the way through the Pop and Rock annals to the one-off gems you would often hear- there was enough to get your teeth into. For me a great male voice has some key components: There is a richness and seductiveness at the heart; something raw and impassioned working away; plenty of depth and nuance- backed by originality and the ability to project your own personality. What I find with a lot of solo acts- when it comes to make albums and E.P.s- is their voice (and its uniqueness) loses something across ten or eleven tracks. The truly great male voices are those that are versatile and nimble enough to make each song sound fresh and worthy- not forgetting to remain consistent and unforced. The likes of Sam Smith have faced derision- when it comes to writing and subject matter- because they are too one-dimensional and not edgy enough; meaning their voice is forced to be penned-in and not fully explore. Cusato has one of those voices that cries out for music that does not sit still and remain tactile; goes a long way and elicits a range of emotions- gives that unique instrument a chance to move and compel. Saeary is a producer and songwriter that is working in a less-than-approved milieu: with so many genres and types of music out there, the likes of Electronica and Drum and Bass are still not mainstream-worthy. You get acts like Calvin Harris come along and take on the charts; there is still that desire- among critics and the listening public- to witness something more ‘accessible’ and safe perhaps. Maybe the genres have a reputation for a lot of noise and force without showing enough depth and quality. This is a misinterpretation that is being given a going-over at the moment. If you check an artist like Seary out- and compare it with a voice like Cuasto’s- then you have music that is as arresting and long-enduring as any out there. If you have an artist that knows his stuff and knows how to captivate an audience; has that determination and passion, you will never be disappointed. Bringing two special and impressive acts together and it results in a wonderful track.
Being a new collaboration it is hard to compare Can’t Say It Back with any other tracks or moments. Seary is a producer who has worked with some great names and produced lots of great moments. I would say he is at his most assured and confident here. Maybe it is the nature of this bond- not sure if he has that deeper connection with Cusato- but he just seems more alive and nuanced on this track. I am not sure what the writing process was- whether the music came first and lyrics next; if the process was reversed- but the intuitiveness and connection of our duo (Cusato and Seary). I know Cusato- pronounced like ‘tomato’ (the British pronunciation) incidentally- will have plans. There are so many voices out there- from the men especially- that is weak and ineffectual; voices that hit at first but then do nothing as time progresses. Cusato has one of those voices that has been growing and developing across time- perhaps his peak and best days are still ahead of him. Taking his (Cusato’s) last E.P. into mind; Backbone showed a lot of power and emotion; stunning highs and insights. Real Thing is a rousing and emotive song that shows defiance and higher purpose. Once upon a time our man had love but now something truer and pure has come into his life. Backed by an impassioned and uplifting composition, it provided the perfect opener. Blame is a more haunted and introspective number. Wanting to fix things that are broken- you get the impression a fractured relationship is being attested- there is that both-sides-of-the-story sensation and feeling. Cusato’s voice is equally powerful when hurt as it is ecstatic- you have an artist with a huge range and ability. In an E.P. that looked at love and stability; across to fragility and deep emotions it is a four-track collection that showed what a talent Cusato is. With echoes of a range of artists- from Oasis to Fleet Foxes; to Paolo Nutini and Soul greats- and it is no surprise that E.P. was met with such applause. I would say Cusato sounds even more assured and scintillating when combined with Seary- maybe a future E.P. will bring in more D&B/Electronica avenues? Seary has an E.P. mooted for 2016- the 24-year-old will release 4U very soon- that will see him work with a number of different artists. Being such a variegated and border-less producer; that will be fascinating to see exploited and fleshed-out. Maybe we will see a Jamie xx-style album- something with the wonder of In Colour– that will meet with mainstream and critical approval. If you consider In Colour; there are some comparisons you can level to Michael Seary. Our hero’s work has that same fluidity and confidence. Capable of producing bangers and hot jams; allowing something moodier and more reflective to show itself, you have a producer with a huge range. Seary’s collaborations will be diverse- often off-kilter too- that will show different genres tied together. Complex and pure you have music that has dynamic shifts and reveals itself over repeated listens- new beats and signatures come to the fore; little snatches and hooks come alive. Seary has proven how impressive and effortless he sounds when combined with a terrific singer. A composer and artist that has such confidence and ability will get stronger as the year progresses- his forthcoming E.P. will be something to behold. Both Seary and Cusato are going to go onto to produce amazing works in their own right. Let us hope they take some time out and perform together once more.
Can’t Say It Back opens with echoes and rushes; the atmosphere builds and the song grows into life. Without immediate revelation or vague slow-build you get a song that awakens like a morning dawn. Those echoing vocals manage to reveal emotion and intrigue without too much speculation. You get hooked into that introduction which teases and shimmers; fluid and entrancing at its heart. Tender piano notes and fragmented beat-snatch come together to herald the hero in. Can’t Say It Back is a song that looks at regret and saying the wrong thing. Maybe revealing too many unwise words- the need to take something back you can’t- the early words show a man with a burdensome and heavy heart. Cusato comes to the microphone with words that tell of inner-pain: “Laced with confusion/Lost my control”. The mix of emotional fogginess and emotional abonnement tell of a man who has undergone a harsh split; breakdown and hurt that has hit him hard. At the first stage you get a composition that remains supportive and under-the-surface. Perfectly highlighting the emotion and rawness in the voice- whilst creating plenty of candour and reflection- our hero lets his voice seduce and open. Honest and emotionally drained it seems like this love- that has gone south and seems irreplaceable- has caused such heartache and distress. On the surface he is fine and carrying on- perhaps trying not to let things get him down- but underneath he is numb. Dealing with things like the death of a close one- stoic on the outside yet tormented and helpless deep down- you have a young man mature enough to recongise mistakes have been made. Not a fly-by-night and slight love; this bond has meaning and potential- its disseverment and implosion has caused huge suffering and anxiety. Our hero is aware of “what I’ve become” (those words are repeated to show realisation and enforce their urgency). Maybe he began a tender and happy man. I am not sure what has caused the internal transformation- whether the reality of the relationship has changed his true self- but who is now is met with resigned sigh and a sallow soul. There is that element of defeatism in the voice as our young hero reflects on the past and how things have changed. In this early phase it is not sure whether the relationship is still together or just split. It could be the case the couple are going through the motions- our hero knows he is going to break his girl’s heart- and the bond is not long for the world. Perhaps there is no love and true affection there anymore- two people with different ideals- or maybe there has been some cheating and deceit? Whatever the truth here you cannot escape the building mood and insatiable sense of what-is-to-come-magic. Cusato’s voice is measured and delivered with implacable soulfulness and emotion. That delicious and honey-smooth sound adds so much emphasis and potential to the words; each lyric comes to life and resounds clearly. In the background you get pops and off-the-cuff beats. Those beats trip and patter with childlike glee; imbued with an urgency and uncertainty, you are hooked by the emotions they summon. It is as though our hero is zombie-like and resource-less- the music video shows figures in black rise to their feet with fatigue- and is searching for meaning. As the chorus comes to life that voice explodes and yearns. Our man wants his girl to love him; you can feel that intensity and hurt come through.
The sense of mystique comes out as you wonder what stage the relationship is in. Maybe there is no distance left to run- the ill-fated lovers have drifted too far apart- but that desire to reconnect is very clear. Matching the torment and power of the vocal; our hero is regretting words he has said in the past. Perhaps he has been too quick to criticise and judge- it seems like there have been arguments and set-tos in the past- and you there is a palpable sense of desperation and loss. With the hero running on empty- and perhaps not knowing what the right words are- all he can offer is apology and remorse. Perhaps he is the culpable party and wants to be out of the relationship- he has to break his sweetheart in order to set himself free- but that is the beauty of the song. Those lyrics have deep emotions and will strike listeners that hear the song- there are themes and ideas we have all encountered. Whereas most producers and composers would lace the song with high explosives and Dub-step beats- making it a drunken and violent buzz of noise- Seary has much more composure and musicality to his approach. Like the finest producers out there- will be splicing Jamie xx into the mix- he adapts to the singer he works with. Cusato has a powerful and dramatic voice that needs chance to shine and work- rather than be overwhelmed by beats and electronics- that also possesses nuance and depth. Seary makes sure the composition remains light enough so the vocal can pervade; it is packed with little touches and driving empathy- allowing the lyrics’ meanings to be fully explored and highlighted. Injecting colour and commitment into every stage, Seary expertly guides our hero and gives him a solid platform to work from. I love how the song gets you guessing and questioning at each new verse. To begin I was sure the relationship has eneded and our hero was mourning the passing of something special. As things developed I began thinking of a relationship still burning; one that was ending soon and would cause heartache. As new lines come into play I started to second-guess (third technically) around ideas of a relationship that is just beginning- perhaps the two are mismatched and our hero will have to break her heart. I decided to stick with my gut- and the idea that the established duo were about the split- and that gut is cut and bleeding as our man is mired in doubt. Not sure what words to say- perhaps he is being too cautious given past events- and patience has worn thin. I know Cusato and Seary wrote the song together and that got me wondering whether both had experienced this event/similar things- or whether Seary was providing appropriate score for Cusato’s personal revelations. As the chorus comes back into view, those beats become more tribal and racing- without getting too heavy and suffocating- giving the track added acceleration and anxiety. Acting like a heartbeat- that is racing to near-fatal levels- you get propulsion and terrific energy. Seary does not just let the beats work their magic. You notice- perhaps upon further spins- little details and compositional touches that provide varied emotions and effects. Such is his confidence and mastery you start to isolate that composition and the nice little touches. Our hero wants his girl back- and wants her to love him- but something has changed. Whether confession or necessary truths there are words that cannot be forgotten and expunged. That regret and pain comes out in a vocal that is positively charged and captivating. Never ululating and cloying- the likes of Sam Smith have been criticised for the lack of depth and overly-sickly nature of the performances- you get a genuine Soul vocal that could have been snatches from the glory-days of the 1970s. That vintage and classic vocal blends perfectly with the ultra-modern and contemporary background- the juxtaposition creates simpatico and not separation. The final moments are dedicated to the music alone. Those scuffling and tumbling beats fuse with the vibrant electronics to give sonic conclusion and reflection. A perfect finale/closing gambit to a powerful track; hard to really take it all in upon infant listen. A track that demands you go back and listen again- to fully appreciate its depths and complexities- it showcases two talents that seem ready-made for one another.
Congratulations must be given to both parties who- although new names to one another perhaps- seem like they are a duo fully-formed. They slot so well together you wonder when the next collaboration will occur. Maybe Seary has a busy 2016 ahead- with the release of his E.P. – whilst Cusato will be planning his next E.P. I am sure (nothing firm yet). Cusato’s voice and conviction is startling throughout a song that drips with heartache and regret. Whether based on real-life events- our man reflecting on a relationship that meant a lot to him- there is that knowing culpability and pain throughout. Can’t Say It Back is a song that documents the unavoidable nature of love- knowing you will break someone’s heart but unable to avoid it- and it deals with it in a mature and fascinating way. The lyrics mix simple truths with personal conjecture and impressive confession. Never cliché and insincere; the lyrics have plenty of soul, heart and emotion (that trinity of words I love to use). Seary matches that impressive hand with a royal flush of a composition- recalling the masterful nature of London’s Jamie xx. It will be fascinating to see how Seary approaches future collaborations. Knowing he will be working with both female and male voices- taking in varied genres and songs- his compositions will camouflage and suit perfectly. Such an adaptable and natural composer; I cannot wait to see how his talent is developed on his soon-to-be-released E.P. If you are unsure about D&B/Electronica music- and have been put off by the Radio One-championed drivel that gets club-goers going- then do not be afraid. What you have here is something more accomplished and palatable than the dumbed-down sounds that do the club circuit. Packed with potency and emotion- there is plenty of depth and beauty- you have a song that unites two extraordinary talents- names to watch closely as the year carries on.
It has been great to discover an artist/producer from one of music’s most recognisable and special music cities (Liverpool). Michael Seary is going to be one of those names that will be on the lips of many in years to come. Having already gained a lot of social media following; seen his ranks rise and get into the conciseness of many, there is no telling just what he comes up with throughout this year. Being a new discoverer of Drum and Bass and Electronica- I have always been familiar with the genres but never really sought them out heavily- it has given me fresh perspective; compelled me to check out more like-minded acts. I think there is still that perception the genres are synonymous with drunkenness and lack of focus (perhaps that is the case with many artists) but that is missing the point entirely. If you can marry those traditional sounds with something more composed and subtle- Seary does not go for the jugular like some of his contemporaries- you have music that has limitless possibilities. Over last year I loved discovering great Electronica-based acts; the music they were producing ranked among the finest from 2015- it seems 2016 will not be a disappointment. It is wonderful discovering great new voices on the music scene. Luke Cusato is among the most memorable and stunning voices coming out at the moment; power and prowess that takes you by surprise but enough subtlety and romance to get the knees trembling. Were he to solely put that voice to acoustic sounds and more ‘restrained’ avenues it would not sound as effective and mesmeric. When combined with Seary you have that partnership that resonate in the mind and sound completely perfect together. I know Can’t Say It Back has been remixed throughout the Can’t Say It Back E.P. – showing what an affect the song has had on fellow D.J.s/producers- and that is in small part because of the bond of the musicians. It would be good to see more collaboration happen; this is an area of music that is not being tapped as hard as it could be. Perhaps in the club scene there are more hook-ups happening; in the mainstream realm there are not as many happening. It is a shame because- as has been shown here- when you get the right people coming together it can lead to something tremendous. I know a lot of singers out there with wonderful voices that are in need of guidance and motivation. There are so many fertile and inventive producers making some hot sounds- needing a worthy other to bring them truly to life. I am not sure if there is a website dedicated to getting singers and producers together- there must be a few I could imagine- but perhaps there should be. For my money, there are too many missed opportunities gone begging. Being a few days into this new year it is hard to say what music will be produced; who will be the artists to watch and keep a close eye on. I think there is not going to be a radical departure from last year and what was being produced- maybe some new voices will come through- but I think there will be more pairings and collaborations.
I know Seary is going to be bringing an E.P. out this year- I am not sure whether Cusato will be- but that will be good news indeed. Bringing the likes of Terri Walker into the mix, that forthcoming release will expand upon his latest track and be a tremendous showcase. Through the years the Liverpool producer has worked with various artists and not quite gained the respect he deserves- the next year will see his name rise to prominence and that adulation come. I hope Luke Cusato has plans for an E.P. More attention needs to be paid to that voice that has won and accrued a mass of followers. In the past the young Liverpool artist has produced some stunning tracks and moments; songs that get into the heart and evoke stunning possibilities. It will be fascinating to see if he comes up with an album or something similar. With artists such as Sam Smith- and that similarly stunning and pure voice a hot ticket- coming through it is clear the public want to discover singers that have soulfulness and immense power. Combining that beauty and falsetto brilliance of Cusato; bring in the magic and authority of Seary and you have a wonderful music moment that is getting people buzzing- I do hope the duo come together again in the future. You never know just what music is going to come up with at all; whether the artists emerging will be long-term favourites or a fleeting thing- that is the nature of the beast I guess. I always think I can recognise stars-in-the-making when I see them: those musicians that have that aptitude and talent; can ensure they are in the public mindset for years to come. With so much music being disposable and short-term- we are not birthing the legends of old- there will be fewer artists around that will last for decades- the likes of The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan were very much exceptions to the rule. That being said there is no reason why we should not be excited and proud. If you have not heard Can’t Say It Back– from two very special young artists- then make sure you give it a listen and let it immerse you. When it comes to both parties involved here are two artists…
WITH very busy years ahead of them.
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