Sequoyah Murray

Before You Begin

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Straight from its Satie-lilting introductory track, Sequoyah Murray's first full-length instantly sounds fresh and unique. The Atlanta native, all of 22 years old at the time of the album's release, takes an adventurous approach to songwriting, stitching together dreamy yet cohesive pop songs out of exploratory brainstorming sessions, and blurring genres with ease. At the center is Murray's rich, versatile baritone, which is both sensuous and commanding, and ethereal enough to make you wonder if he permanently resides in an echo chamber. Songs such as "I Wonder" express anxiety and emotional confusion, yet ultimately sound passionate and hopeful, and it's hard not to feel uplifted by them. The gorgeous new wave soul of "Sublime" brings to mind Prince as channeled by electroclash-era Felix da Housecat, setting a wide-eyed romantic proposition to a propulsive dance beat. Murray experiments with more complex rhythms on the cyber-Afropop of "Blue Jays" and the futuristic Tropicália of "Is Enough," one of the album's sunniest, most playful tunes. First single "Penalties of Love" is perhaps the biggest tear-jerker here, expressing the persistent feelings of longing after a separation over a fluid but strong rhythm. The earthy, harp-laced "Before You Begin" sums up the ultimately optimistic spirit of the album, offering an unfaltering message of encouragement. An eye-opening debut from a boundlessly creative talent.

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