Downes Braide Association – Skyscraper Souls (Album Review)

Downes Braide Association – Skyscraper Souls (Album Review)

What is great and interesting about supergroups—or in the case of Downes Braide Association, superduos—is that the magnetic quality of their music is very powerful; every member brings in his own legion of fans and punters. Even before the spectators get to hear whatever project or output such artists are cooking up, the collaborative dish is already assumed to be sensational—and, most often, it is. After all, the artists involved in or who get to be invited to participate in collective efforts like this are usually high-profile, proficient, and have impressive track records.

Formed in 2012, Downes Braide Association is comprised by Geoff Downes and Chris Braide. Currently living in South Wales, Great Britain, Downes was a member and co-songwriter of some of the beloved hits of the English bands The Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”), Yes (“Into the Lens”), and Asia (“Heat of the Moment”). Braide, on the other hand, is a U.S.-based English songwriter, singer, and record producer, whose long list of performers whom he had produced included Sia (“Unstoppable”), Lana Del Rey (“Million Dollar Man”), Britney Spears (“Perfume”), Christina Aguilera (“Blank Page”), and Sarah Brightman (“Closer”).

The first fruit of the duo’s collaboration was 2012’s Pictures of You, followed up in 2015 with Suburban Ghosts. Now, Downes Braide Association unleash their third offering, Skyscraper Souls.

Released on November 17, 2017, via Cherry Red, Downes Braide Association’s new album is steeped with contributions from equally talented and iconic artists, breathing life and love into songs that are woven with Downes’ Progressive Rock roots and Braide’s Pop sensibilities.

Skyscraper Souls opens aptly with the unassuming, short piano-based Light Jazz ballad “Prelude,” which then gives practically the entire remaining space to the eighteen-minute long, cinematic epic title track, slowly uplifting the rhythm and beat to extended, multi-horizon driving mode. Featuring Kate Pierson of The B-52s, this track alone may be regarded as enough reason to add the album to one’s collection of Progressive Rock/Pop music.

The Andy Partridge–sung “Glacier Girl” carries the listener back to Pop balladry and nonsuch ecstasy with its rippling piano flourishes and complementary haunting female voices. Switching the tempo to a higher gear is the smooth and soulful, metallic guitar–adorned stomper “Angel on Your Shoulder.” Another sentimental track comes next in the form of “Tomorrow,” whose stark Pop sensibilities and melodic guitar interlude make it a good mid-album highlight. A similar Sophistipop vibe flows flawlessly into the ensuing, slightly more upbeat “Lighthouse,” illuminating the listener’s emotional path before he turns to a gloomy curve.

Both the sonic and lyrical sentiments turn more dramatic with the heartrending slow ballad “Skin Deep,” which features the silky, soaring voice of Soft Cell’s Marc Almond. Then, before they drop the final curtain, Downes and Braide drape their Skyscraper Souls with another richly textured and well-orchestrated expression of poignancy—“Darker Times” indeed.

Downes Braide Association’s latest work may be a taller, grander, and more concept-oriented affair compared with its predecessors, but it remains grounded, accessible, and easily relatable. CrypticRock gives Skyscraper Souls 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Skyscraper Souls:

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. As a means to further his passion for music, he formed the band haLf man haLf eLf. He now performs with another band, The Psychedelics. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He began writing album reviews for CrypticRock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf? His next planned literary endeavor is to publish the remaining parts of the anthology and his works on Poetry, Fantasy Fiction, and Mythology. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. He participates at various community events; and he explores the diverse cultural beauty of Canada whenever his schedule permits it. aLfie is a doting and dedicated father to his now ten-year-old son, Evawwen.

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