Youth can afford a level of optimism that sometimes age and experience sadly don’t allow. There’s an abandon and sheer will that accompanies us when we’re younger. It pushes us to succeed. Succeed at what? Sports, academics and the arts come to mind. Within those realms, being young and open-hearted to new possibilities allows a level of “try” that is hard to come by once you’ve got a mortgage and bank payment book. When you’re young and talented, with the right support group, possibilities are endless.
Addison Agen is still in high school, yet she’s already released her debut album on Neat Neat Neat Records. It’s called New Places, and it would be a fantastic debut for musicians in their 20s who’ve spent a few years carving out a name for themselves. For a young woman still balancing history papers, awkward high school hallway politics and the eco-system known as the high school cafeteria, it’s an astounding achievement.
Agen possesses both an incredible knack for pop hook songwriting and a voice that seems to carry years of life she has yet to live. Album opener “Start Over” is a bouncy, upbeat track that has a heavy vibe lyrically, like someone who’s gone through the rough stuff asking for a chance to do it again. Heavy sentiment for such a young soul.
“All They Really Need” glides along a Hammond organ and Agen’s dark, soulful vocals. “But all they really need is a little help from God,” Agen sings with beautifully built harmonies and a heavy-hearted vibe.
“Look” is an emotional fireball of a track. It’s a song that you could easily hear on the radio or as the credits roll at the end of some film at the Carmike. What gets me about this song is the subtlety and sparse instrumentation. You’re left to concentrate on the emotion conveyed in the vocals.
A secret weapon here is Jason Davis of Off The Cuff Sound. His production and studio add a depth and age to Agen’s songs that might otherwise had been lost in another studio scenario. Instead of adding some kind of shiny radio-ready sheen, he allows these songs to live and breathe. They grow organically from the heart and soul Agen brings to the tunes.
From “Both Of Us,” “On Your Own” and “Play It By Ear” to “Show Me A New Way” and album closer “Sugarcoat,” Agen brings a depth and soulful confidence to her songs. There’s a maturity here that, at least in my experience, seems remarkably uncommon coming from someone barely old enough to drive. If this is what she’s doing now, I can’t imagine what she’ll be writing once she’s got a couple years past 18 under her belt.
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Marcus King Band
July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion