Marques Toliver

Land of Canaan

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In 2007, at the age of 20, violinist and vocalist Marques Toliver moved from Daytona Beach to Brooklyn. He busked, awed TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, and subsequently entered the prominent local music scene. After he recorded strings for Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest, he moved to London, was hailed by Adele, and appeared on Later…with Jools Holland, where he performed the emotionally cutting "White Sails" by himself. A major label wouldn't know how to handle him. It's unimaginable that executives have pined for artists who cite Mahler and Mtume, and can sing and play violin as the wildly dissimilar and noncommercial Noel Pointer and Long Fin Killie's Luke Sutherland have done in the past. So it's likely for the better that Toliver signed with the artist-driven independent Bella Union. The artist says that this, the follow-up to a four-track 2011 EP, was inspired by the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Noah's curse of Ham, and contemporary music. The first two references enhance Toliver's narrative, but the third one is most significant. As creative and imaginative as these songs are, they're also direct and accessible, grounded in gospel and soul and graced with remarkable pop hooks. In an alternate universe with healthier U.S. Top 40 and R&B radio formats, the bursting "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"-quoting "Contact," as well as the yearning and bittersweet "Stay," would be in steady rotation for months. Another remarkable aspect is that Toliver never sounds as if he is showing off. What comes out of him sounds exactly like pure expression, despite the fact that he can sing his behind off as his violin saws, stings, and flutters with considerable grace and force.

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