Sade Face is available at:
12th November, 2016
The E.P., Only the Young, is available at:
ONE of the things that grinds my gears is how many genuinely new and…
innovative musicians struggle hard to get their voices noticed. I will start with that point as it is something that really gets to me. I hear a lot of bands and solo artists emerge who offer nothing fresh and worth talking about. Too often, these artists get raised to giddy heights and elevated above their peers. It may sound like a personal rant but it is meant to get people thinking and changing their attitudes. I know we all have our personal tastes but there are artists who are struggling to get the acclaim they deserve. My featured artist is one such musician who has a solid following but should be getting more people into his tent. It is not just his attitude and organisation skills that make me think that – the music itself is finer and more stunning than a lot out there. Going back to the original point and I have seen so many different acts get to the mainstream only to fade away. It seems those who work hardest – and take longest to get to the critical precipice – are the best music has on show. The reason I raise this point is because many musicians are quitting before they get their dues. Waiting for someone to give them a break – or get their crack at the big leagues – it is disheartening seeing wonderful musicians have to call time. If you think about it; how many great artists do you know have ended their career because they are struggling for recognition. This is not meant to be a morbid foreshadowing for Ruben but he is someone who will continue to strike and impress. Deserving of serious acclaim and proper respect: I know he will keep pressing and transcend to the mainstream in years to come. Before I raise a couple of new topics, let me introduce Ruben to you:
“Ruben is a London based singer songwriter creating his own electronic pop music.
He has a degree in Film Production and it is his love of cinema that influences his music, taking on a cinematic tone that is often whimsical and also haunting.
He released his debut EP “Only The Young” in November 2016 and gained radio play with the lead single (of the same name) from Eagle3 radio.
Ruben has performed his songs live in numerous venues including Cafe 1001 in Brick Lane, Trinity Bar in Harrow and The Island Queen in Islington.
He notes artists such as Lana Del Rey, The Killers, The Pet Shop Boys and The Smiths as his influences”.
Looking at Ruben and he is already making big strides to ensuring survival and growth. Before I come to look at Pop and the music he plays, it is worth applauding the attitude and approach he has to music. There are few new artists as disciplined and hard-working as him. If you look at his official website (link at the bottom of this review) it is informative, easy to navigate and impressive. I have lambasted some musicians who feel it unnecessary to have an official website – often relying on the listener to scrape together the social media pages (of the artists) and only get a little insight into them. Ruben keeps his biography clear and concise: providing some reveal into his heroes and the music he plays; where he has come from and where he might be headed. That is what you need from a musician in this day and age. There is no needless loquaciousness and filler; you get all the information you need and his links. Also, and if by serendipitous magic, you get photos and images of Ruben. I still see too many artists throwing together some (rather poor) live shots and the odd Smartphone-generated images and that is about it. If you want to succeed and get people invested you have to do better than that. I am not suggesting each new act have a shiny and dazzling website with lots of photos and music – just something that gives the new fan what they want and keeps them hooked. In Ruben’s case, there are some fantastic images and all his social media links on the site; his social media pages are updated regularly and full; he keeps his fans informed and updated. This might sound like an uninteresting topic but essential for any musician reading. With Ruben, here is someone who knows what it takes to succeed and is making big strides. I, as a reviewer, have all I need at my fingertips and do not struggle for information. As 2017 approaches, we are looking to the future and the artists that will start making moves. Given Ruben’s organisation and assured social media pages: it gives him a great chance of catching prominent ears; getting his music to the hands of some big labels. I am not sure what his plans are for the coming year but he is capable of creating lasting impressions.
I shall come to Ruben’s current (and past) sounds in a minute, but for now, it is worth looking at Pop as a genre. Again, this is a path I have trodden before but felt sage to revisit. I know ‘Pop’ has a reputation as being somewhat inferior and predictable. The same way Rock music cannot be easily defined and predicted: Pop is even harder to narrow and get a sense of. Many people (quite wrongly) assume Pop is what we hear in the charts and on the lesser radio stations – because it is ‘popular music’. That is a rather subjective definition of music: just because a lot of people listen to stations like Capital’ and Radio 1 does not mean it is any good – I shall leave my argument and personal tastes aside. I feel Ruben could get played on those stations but is much more suited to the suave and cool side of the dial – making his way to ‘6 Music, perhaps. I know a lot of artists that make it onto that station and will reach a much broader and discerning demographic – those who know their music and have finer tastes. Whether he favours the sounds and route of local radio – again, something I detest – or has a love of the likes of ‘6 Music; that will be interesting to see. What I mean, and circling it back, is his music has that adaptable nature and quality inherent. Pop gets a bad rap because of cheesy artists and mass-produced bands. If you listen to Ruben’s music you get cinema and widescreen beauty; sweeping scenes and something emotive and grand. If you listen to the likes of Lana Del Rey then you get a sense of what Ruben is about. Whilst not exactly the same; Del Rey’s music has that quality and class that her peers lack – able to cross boundaries and appeal to a huge number of people. I feel Rock has become stagnated whereas Pop continues to evolve and mutate.
I am not sure what it is but Pop artists are a lot more agile than we give credit for. It seems like there is more room to work and campaign compared with other genres. If you throw in Electronic shades or fancy something more Folk: Pop allows you that freedom and opportunity. Looking at Ruben and you get romanticism and honesty; there are electronic elements but a leaning towards something immediate and honest – an artist that puts his soul out there and wraps I in some of the most affecting sounds I have heard in a while. It is challenging sticking with a musician who is going to go the whole way, but with Ruben, the first steps are very promising. I opened by complaining about those who get undeserved attention – this applies to Ruben indirectly. Is social media numbers are not as high as you’d like and he should have more people in his camp. Such is the quality and originality of his music you feel many people are missing out. Ruben himself is campaigning and working hard but the media/stations should be doing more to assist. I know next year will see the bigger stations pay attention and his stock will rise considerably. Were he performing run-of-the-mill Pop and addressing the same old themes – broken hearts and cheating exs – then I would not pay such mind to his work. As it stands, Ruben is one of the mist mature and intelligent Pop acts I have heard in a long while and bringing a sense of occasion and innovation to the genre. This all comes out in new work like Sad Face and Only the Young. His new E.P. (Only the Young) is catching attention and being lauded by his fans. You never get a sense of a man primed for the charts and making music for committees and labels. There’s that individuality and personality that is very much his own; songs that appeal to wide sectors and the lasting impression is of someone that knows where he wants to head.
Only the Young is a four-track E.P. that brings together a range of different themes and subjects. I have investigated the title track previously and its themes – something serious, thought-provoking and deep. In the remainder of the E.P. one gets insights into love and young regret; you have loneliness and sallow countenance – a human looking for answers and affected by the harshness of the world. That is not to say the E.P. is negative and dark: there is a mixture of emotions and plenty of light to be found. Even in the most introspective numbers you get rousing instrumentation and sounds; a voice that continues to seduce and buckle the knees. I usually spend this section comparing an artist’s current work against their older stuff. Only the Young is the debut E.P. from Ruben and the first taste of the young Pop artist. I cannot compare Ruben’s old and new stuff but, on the basis of the E.P., can already hear immense confidence and assuredness. You get no nerves and rough edges: every song races and explodes with authority and professionalism. It sounds like Ruben has been recording for years and this is his third or fourth E.P. The production is quite polished – but never overly so – and you get so many nuances across the four tracks. The title track is, perhaps, the most memorable and accomplished but Valentina and Lonely City ensure the E.P. finishes with two fantastic songs. It (Only the Young) is tight and focused but leaves you wanting more. Throughout, you hear a young artist in his element and inspiring throughout. The songs are not your average heartbroken-moan-and-made-for-the-charts song that once heard is instantly forgotten. Instead, one received a song that channels deep and compels you to keep coming back and listening. A full, stunning and memorable E.P. from an artist that has a long future ahead.
Sad Face is the current single from the E.P. and a song I was keen to jump on. The opening notes have a lullaby/music box charm to them. You get plinking, balletic notes that pirouette and dance gracefully around the stage. Gentle and pure; you get caught in the beauty and tenderness that unfolds. I was not expecting such a slight and mesmeric sound to open the song – maybe something more rousing and bracing. That is a wonderful thing: being subverted and hearing something really unexpected. So many other Pop artists would go for hard and hitting electronics and phat beats – negating subtlety and shoving the song down your throat. Rather than go to fourth base and overlook seduction: Ruben flirts with the listener and does not go racing straight in – I’ll drop that analogy now! In essence, Sad Face perfectly ascribes and defines itself without a word being sung. There is a somberness and tear-stained sound to the introduction but you get romance and immense beauty. Ruben comes to the microphone with little composition adornment and layering. His voice is sonorous and serious but has a smoothness and purity to it. Our hero wonders whether (his sweetheart) misses him and what went wrong. You wonder who is being ascribed and the reasons behind the break-up. It is another unexpected turn and something that keeps the song fresh and mobile. The E.P. (Only the Young) has promotional shots of Ruben throwing Polaroids into a canyon – dispensing with past memories and eradicating the past. This is something that runs throughout Sad Face. You have a young man that is bravely asking questions; perhaps afraid of what the answer might be. Asking his lover if he’s missed and thought about – maybe answers will never come. Rather than succumb to cliché and trope, you have a song much more bespoke and personal than the predictable fare of his peers. In the opening stages, you can almost hear and see the backstory and relationship – where the two came from and the machinations of the love.
Maybe the truth is not straight-forward but the questions very much are. I was intrigued whether there was another person responsible for the break-up or whether things just ran their course. Perhaps that is the meaning of the song: never revealing the full truth and allowing the listener a chance to interpret. As beats start to chomp and canter into the song; the hero investigates his naivety and wonders whether he was foolhardy. Walking crowds he is always imagining his former love – faces that look the same but aren’t; always shocking and upsetting. It is a feeling many heartbroken people get after a relationship ends: they always see their former lover in other people or want to see them; yearning for reconciliation and missing them hugely. That comes through in the song and your heart goes out to the hero. As the lyrics progress, Ruben asks whether he has been naïve and a little short-sighted. Thinking the relationship would last; there is that aftershock now it has ended. Many musicians attest broken love but do so without necessary gravitas and originality. Not only are the lyrics more interesting and personal than you’d expect: the vocal is out front and has a candour and emotional nakedness you do not get from a lot of artists. The chorus is the most immediate part of the song and will get you singing along instantly. “This is what a sad face looks like” it is said. Ruben is picking the pieces from the broken bond and trying to piece the puzzle back together again. Almost mocking and taunting his former lover: getting them to look at his face and the emotions you can see.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jacek Davis
Despite the near-jokiness of the words – jabbing at the former partner and the result of the heartlessness – the sentiment and delivery comes directly from the heart. You never sense a man making light of his lot: always hitting hard and letting the listener into his heart. Despite weighted words and serious subject matter; the composition is rousing, light and delicate. The percussion continues to pound but you get tender notes and elliptical sides – keeping the song uplifted and energised. That is what Ruben does so well: he can balance dark and light but keeps the song concise and focused. Sad Face has charm and memorability but is one of the most affecting and personal songs from Ruben. The hero wants to give things another chance but that might not be possible. They are off in the city and making moves; perhaps hooking up with other guys and not thinking twice about things. Ruben is sitting at home and wondering how to make things right: whether his former love is thinking of him and thinking of reconciliation. It is that sense of mediation and solution that makes the song so appealing. Ruben never casts blame and goes on the attack: he is looking for repair and wants things back how they were. That is quite a refreshing attitude to a post-break-up song – not being accusatory and showing some maturity about things. It is heartbreaking and open; tragic but hopeful – you feel like they could get back together. The chorus comes back in and seems more relevant and revealing the second time around. It is never rush-delivered and fast; paced so the words can be heard and resonate. You let the words wash over you as you picture the scenes unfolding. Ruben is at home thinking things over whilst his love, in a city undisclosed, is going about their life and living their day. It is agonising to think they might not be paying as much mind to the break-up as Ruben – just going through their day without a care. That seems unlikely but it is worth mentioning. That chorus comes back and keeps riding: the mantra and business statement that becomes heavier and more relevant each time. By the end, you wonder whether the duo ever got back together or at least affected some sort of conversation – opened the channels of communication at least. If Sad Face is a break-up song that sifts through the ashes; there is hope things can go back to how they were – Ruben always imbues light into his songs. Sad Face is a stunning song – and one of the highlights of the E.P. – that is hard to forget and compels you to listen to over again.
There are not many artists out there like Ruben. I have been following his music for a little while now and watching him grow and strengthen. Sad Face is his latest song and one that you know will capture many hearts. I mentioned radio stations like ‘6 Music and how Ruben could get some airplay there. Sad Face has a sound that will not only appeal to their listenership but get into the hearts of the Pop purists. You get energy, youthfulness and vibrancy with Ruben but, as the song shows, plenty of maturity, insight and soulfulness. I know he has just released an E.P. but one wonders how 2017 will unfold. I could imagine Ruben bringing an album out and something full-length. Such is the momentum and inspiration he has now it will be interesting to see. In terms of gigs, he is performing across London at the moment and making sure the capital knows what he is about. Playing smaller venues and open mic. nights: more of the same for the coming years. With the likes of Fabric reopening; there are chances for Ruben to play and there is more hope and faith in the London music scene – more than there was when Fabric was closed. As we stagger into the New Year, many will want positivity and happiness to reign – given the crappy year we have just gone through. In that respect, musicians will be stepping up and ensuring the listener is given something nourishing and comforting. Ruben has made big strides this year and improved from his earliest days. A confident young man who has a well-stocked social media portfolio and a professional website. He knows music is as much about business and image as it is music and personality. If you have a professional-looking website and seem serious then more people will come to you.
Before I wrap things up, I will look at the initial points and why Ruben is someone we should all look out for. Not only is Sad Face a stunning new cut but it results from months of preparation and hard work. I have seen few artists that put the grind in and are constantly on the move. Modern music is defined by tireless campaigning and long hours; getting your name out across the nation and really having to graft. Ruben is someone ready for the task and challenge: he has that passion and love for music. Nobody can deny him of resting on his laurels as he continues to record and perform. I mentioned how many musicians do not have a great set of websites and are ignorant to that side of things. If you are trying to discover a musician then you instantly go to the Internet. If you rock up on someone’s Facebook page and there is nothing there – how likely are you to stick around and be impressed? Many bands/artists have a couple of snaps and the odd link – that is pretty much it. It is disheartening and something that puts me off investigating further. I am not saying this is the reason artists fail but it is part of the reason at least. Ruben knows he has to be visible in order to attract and has created accessible and informative sites – his official page is one of the best out there. Couple this with music that gets inside the soul and compels you to listen more and you have a modern-day artist that has what it takes to go all the way. Pop is a genre that is always subject to discrimination and snobbiness: something that is starting to be redressed this year to an extent. Depending on your tastes and preferences; you have so many different options in modern Pop. It is not all chart music and generic-sounding fluff. Pop is becoming much more serious and provided with huge options and range. Ruben straddles other genres and splices Electro. candour with the gentleness and purity of Soul; cinematic energy and something quite exciting – mix this into the pot and you have a very spicy and exciting recipe.
I know the young man will have his own goals but I would like to see Ruben take his music across the country. London is a vital market – and given his proximity to the capital that is understandable – but there are towns and cities that would welcome Ruben in. I know the larger areas – Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool – would take him to heart and opportunities even further north. Maybe financial constraints are a factor but one cannot deny the popularity Ruben could achieve. So far, London is falling under his spell but there are lands and markets yet to conquer. Sad Face – and the Only the Young E.P. – bursts with quality, excitement and passion. You have a musician that has the ammunition and personality to challenge the standing order and make his name heard loud. I have grown weary of many of the so-called ‘future’ of Pop music. Too many rely on Auto-Tune and armies of writers to pen their music. If you look at who is top of the album charts – Little Mix at the moment – and you have a band that has little musical skill and hordes of writers behind them – not the most gifted in terms of vocals. I love girl bands – the legends like Destiny’s Child and En Vogue – but feel too many of today’s crop lack the bite, talent and appeal of the 1990s’ giants. Little Mix are indicative of so many Pop artists making their way through. You get those that are more edgy, interesting and appealing but they are becoming fewer. Ruben is a breath of fresh air against this tide. A unique talent who takes control of his material and does not need ranks of producers/writers to make him sound like him. In an X Factor world, he is providing sober spotlight to those who lack talent – Ruben is showing how it should be done and how good he is.
Before I close, let’s consider his current sounds and where Ruben could head. I mentioned the possibility of touring but I could see Ruben being celebrated in nations like the U.S. I know I say it about so many review subjects but it holds true here. The U.S. is sending their musicians here – a cultural exchange programme in a way – but they have a love and affection for our finest talent. Ruben could get a few dates over there and really carve out a name for himself. Maybe finance is a factor but demand surely won’t be. There are those out there that would love to see him: if that is fulfilled, who knows how far Ruben can go? The U.K. is taking Ruben to heart and he is reciprocating with fantastic music. The coming year will be an exciting and busy one for the young talent and a chance for him to ascend to the giddy heights of the mainstream. If he does get there – or takes a couple more years – Ruben can be an ambassador for Pop and just what can be achieved; the importance of taking control and not shelling out music to other writers and producers. Sad Face is invariably a personal song that comes from a young man both open and intriguing. There is enigma and mystery with Ruben but a man who opens his soul and wants to bring the listener in. I implore people to immerse themselves in the Only the Young E.P. – it is available on SoundCloud – and one of the best E.P.s I have heard in the last few months. Solid, refined and expert; loose, exciting and multi-layered – so many different strands and themes; a singular artist that you are damned to ignore. Congratulations to Ruben and his fantastic year: let’s hope this continues into 2017. Sad Face is the latest revelation from a sensational artist that has a great future ahead. Many artists have a very uncertain future but Ruben has a bright and prosperous one ahead…
THAT is for sure.