Lucid Marketing, 2013

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


A distinctive retro and European pop feel pervades Sultanov's debut disc – fitting, since the artist is based in Moscow and regularly produces Russian commercials. As with many debuts, it's easier to spot the influences than to extract a unique sound, but the best of Sultanov suggests the man has a career in adult MOR pop ahead of him.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"What Lies Beneath" has strong Beatles and Simply Red influences, sounding like the modern update of "If I Fell" with added strings and intact vocal harmonies, one of the strengths of this album. The song (and most of the album) is mature and intelligent, a league above the pop that currently clogs the Top 40, which means this album probably won't land there.

Although Sultanov lists Hendrix and Zeppelin as influences, there is none of that to be found here except perhaps in the adventurous spirit and love of sound. More prevalent are early Bee Gees, Beatles, and Prefab Sprout influences, particularly in the prominent rhythm section and expansive, slightly downcast yet omnipresent melodies, as evidenced in "Break Free," the best song here. "Black Light" also is good (and may get some airplay) with its distinct Euro-club attitude that would sound great on the dance floor.

The second half of the disc needs work. The horns grafted on to "How You Gonna Know?" ruin the piece, the dull White Album reject ballad "50 Fathoms Down" is unnecessary, and "Live Your Life" is a pastiche of pop styles that does not work. However, the staccato intensity, bravura attitude, and harmonies of "Television" redeem these, and the closing piano-and-string instrumental "Can't Change" is quite lovely, if a bit out of place.

While not everything works, it is evident Sultanov has put care and depth into his debut, and that makes it worth seeking out for fans of sophisticated, adult pop songwriting that recalls the past but keeps one eye on the contemporary scene. In time, one hopes that the artist will use his considerable songcraft to forge a style all his own.

Rating: B-

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