Shawn Brown is really setting the bar with his EP Angel of Oakland. Continuing his genre-defying sound, through the three tracks he touches on the love for his adopted hometown and struggling through life. With sounds that edge along the anthemic, he has you lost in his sound and ready for what he has to offer in the future.
Drawing on influences from soul to guitar-based pop, Brown blends them together to form his unique sound. After an extended break from music, he started to move back onto the scene in 2019 and reunited the Shawn Brown Trio only for the pandemic to cancel their shows. With the fuse lit, he kept going and with the talents of Grecco Buratto and Brendan Buckley, he created this EP.
The title track is the first of the EP and introduces you to Brown’s love letter to Oakland. ‘Angel of Oakland’ uses a soft yet soaring guitar line to set the affectionate tones of the track. Brown’s vocals are a delightful husky counterpoint to the smoothness of the guitar. The interplay between the vocals and melody insinuates itself into your brain and fills you with the emotions of the song. As you listen to Brown’s gentle ode to Oakland, you are thrown back into your own memories of your hometown and everything that you love about it.
‘9th Street Hymn’ has a more grounded feeling to the melody as it hits you with an earthy guitar and drum combo in the opening. Brown’s vocals continue their husky tones but there is a different edge to them. You can almost hear the slight quirk of lips woven into the song. While the melody is relatively minimal, there is a wonderful depth to it that enhances the emotion of the vocals. Each growl from Brown fills your chest with positive vibes and a sense of having someone there to watch your back.
The EP comes to an end with the more acoustic tones of ‘Taking on Water’. Brown takes you on another musical route with this track using a light acoustic guitar and swelling strings that delicately wisp past your senses in the back. This song has a twilight feeling to it as the sun sinks beneath the horizon and the fingers of night start to creep in. This feeling bolsters the melancholic vocals which have a sad resignation to them. While melancholic, there is a flickering ember of hope resting in the low levels like you could get through the issues of the track if you tried. However, this is tempered by that resignation and an almost understanding that things are unlikely to get better.
Shawn Brown uses three very different songs to showcase his emotional depths, musicality and what he has to offer for the future in Angel of Oakland. From an ode to his new hometown to positive vibes and sad resignation, he fills you with the emotions of his stories. His husky vocals are a delightful counter to the smoothness of his melodies.