By My Side is David Choi’s second independently released album. For those of you that don’t know, David is a singer-songwriter who owes his current success largely to the video sharing website Youtube. He is also a well respected songwriter and producer, having worked for Warner/Chapell.
I recently picked up his second album from his website (he distributes his records himself, as well as through other online retailers like iTunes and Amazon), opting for the physical CD version rather than the download (yes David, many people – including myself – still buy and prefer CD’s over downloads, so keep releasing your records on CD!)
It arrived pretty quick (think it took 5 days or so to get to me in UK), and once I had it in my hands I popped it in my CD player, and sat down to listen.
First things first, this is a DIY home studio effort – Choi has all his own recording gear and records and mixes his music in his home – but if you played this to your average music listener, they’d be none the wiser. Even as a recording & mixing engineer myself, I have found this album does a convincing job of replicating the lavish kind of production of albums with budgets considerably largely than what I imagine Choi’s to be.
This is on the whole a great sounding album – there are a few things which let the production down – like fairly obviously sampled drums, for example – but it doesn’t change the fact that there is obvious character and heart to the recordings, and some great performances – which no amount of budget is going to give you. Considering that he has done everything in the department sans mastering the record – this is wonderful stuff.
I think the most important thing here though is the songs themselves – how do they hold up? No use in great performances and good production if the songs are rubbish!
Thankfully, they’re not! There’s very little filler here, and if you are a singer-songwriter fan, who’s into pop-rock, this is a prime example of the genre done well.
Choi creates some wonderful arrangements for his unique blend of pop, r’n’b, soul and acoustic music. There’s even some elements of folk and modern country in here too. He is somewhat of a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, piano, banjo (and I think mandolin maybe?) and violin on this album, amongst others. He writes songs mainly about love and relationship troubles, and his voice ranges from sweet, gentle falsetto, to a strong, vibrant chest voice, which can even be at times pleasingly edgy when he strains it a little. He is a very versatile vocalist, and delivers his lyrics with soul & depth.
Some of the fantastic chord progressions and melodies on this album, along with a voice full of personality, I think really display why he is such a great songwriter and performer. I do find him lyrically to be nothing special – his lyrics (as mentioned) are typical love song affairs, and while certainly far from bad, they never really stand out as being relatable on anything more than a basic level.
He does have his moments though, when he strays away from his usual themes – ‘Heavens Ease’ shows that David is more than your average pop star – this is poetic, slightly cryptic song and showcases his insight and intellect. Meanwhile tracks like ‘Amy Ave’ show him trying something a little different – reliving childhood memories – and even though the song falls a little flat (not helped by some misguided use of autotune as an effect – although I see what he was trying to do, it just doesn’t work though), it shows that he is not afraid to diversify and challenge himself. Album closer ‘What do you know’ is a witty affair and gives a glimpse of David’s tongue in cheek outlook on life.
Overall this is a really promising album, that despite falling flat in a few areas, is on the whole a brilliant piece of work. I think what makes David Choi stand out from the rest is his ability to differentiate himself from similar artists by taking full control over all the elements of his music, and his deep understanding of his craft. This is a man, who, if he carries on this way, I’ve no doubt he could be seen in 50 years time as one of the song-writing greats. This is incredibly inspiring to other independent artists (like myself) and shows that if you are determined enough you can make a name for yourself without all the middle men typically involved in a musicians career.
I give this album 8/10 🙂