JUSTIN LEVINSON is a singer/songwriter from Burlington, Vermont. Renowned for a catalog of songs covering everything from power-pop to country to "feel good heartbreak", Justin has earned steady praise from audiences and critics alike since his 2005 debut.
Paying his dues and refining his craft at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Justin's breakthrough ultimately came with his ode to small-town life, "City With Two Streetlights", off of debut record 1175 BOYLSTON. The song spent eight weeks on the top 25 CMJ charts, gaining airplay in over 350 stations across the country and catapulting Justin into the spotlight. Amid a slot in the 2006 INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW TOUR and an award for Best Male Artist from the INTERNATIONAL ACOUSTIC MUSIC AWARDS, sophomore album BURY YOUR LOVE was released. With a dash of twang inherited from time spent in Nashville, the record earned praise as a folksy and somber departure---exemplified in melancholy concert staple "Home". Closing the decade was 2009's alt-country-inspired PREDETERMINED FATE. The album brought Justin his strongest reviews to date, bolstered by the breakthrough success of Sirius radio staple "Waiting For Someone To Love Me"; the song went on to win Justin a nomination for Sirius SINGER-SONGWRITER DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR.
Justin Levinson's newest album, THIS SIDE OF ME, THIS SIDE OF YOU, released in January 2012, is described as "feel good heartbreak". Justin---with backing band THE VALCOURS---dresses his distress in an eclectic mix of piano, loud guitar, horns, strings, and dreamy harmonies, with contributions from acclaimed singer/songwriters WILL DAILEY, GREGORY DOUGLASS, and LIZ LONGLEY. The release was followed by extensive touring of the US & Canada with AARON CARTER, TYLER HILTON & HOWIE DAY.
"Juxtaposing upbeat melodies with often serious subject matter, Justin creates perfectly catchy tunes that nobody can resist singing along to", says the PLATTSBURGH PIPLEINE. Dan Bolles of SEVEN DAYS notes Justin's "knack for letter-perfect pop hooks", while SNOB'S MUSIC blog has praised Justin's capability of "penning lyrics that put a smile on your face with vivid imagery and clever turns of phrase, all wrapped up with a keen sense of humour." On his effortless tackling of multiple genres, SKOPE ENTERTAINMENT declares "the best thing about Levinson's music is that it has layers". And Frank Gutch Jr. of ACOUSTIC MUSIC EXCHANGE confidently declared "no matter what kind of day I will be having, my head will raise and a voice inside me will say, 'It is a good day when I hear Levinson'."
Justin Levinson (Guitar, Harp, Keys, Vocals)
Sean Preece (Drums, Vocals)
Rob O'dea (Bass)
Brett Lanier (Pedal Steel)
Aaron Carlino (Lead Guitar)
2005- 1175 BOYLSTON
-Charted high on the CMJ charts with singles "City With 2 Streetlights" and "Sunny Day", gaining airplay in over 350 stations across the country.
2007- BURY YOUR LOVE
-Single "Bury Your Love" won Justin the award for 'Best Male Artists' in the International Acoustic Music Awards.
2009- PREDETERMINED FATE
-Single "Waiting For Someone To Love Me" topped the charts in Sirius Coffeehouse Radio, earning Justin a nomination for Sirius Singer-Songwriter Discovery Of The Year.
-Second single "Losing You To Tennessee" was selected as a featured song for Virgin Airlines (with flights from major U.S. cities, including San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas, San Diego, Seattle, New York, Washington D.C, Boston and Orange County), reaching 416,667 ears per month.
-Third single "Bandaid On A Bulletwound" received an honorable mention in the Billboard Song Contest.
2012- THIS SIDE OF ME, THIS SIDE OF YOU
-First single "I Was So Wrong" features Liz Longley
-Second single "Let You Go" features Universal Recording artist Will Dailey
-Showcased at North By Northeast (NXNE) in Toronto Canada
-Toured US & Canada with Tyler Hilton
2013-On The Road
-Toured US & Canada with Aaron Carter
-Toured US with John Waite
-Toured US with Howie Day
Indie Spotlight: Justin Levinson & The Valcours
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Justin Levinson isn’t particularly a household name, but with his electric mix of hearth throbbing-i...Justin Levinson isn’t particularly a household name, but with his electric mix of hearth throbbing-infused aesthetics and country-tinged balladry, he would be right at home in a climate of top 40 melodic guitar rock. Justin Levinson is a few albums deep, and has just recently released his new record, This Side of Me, This Side of You, alongside his backing group, The Valcours.
The album features ten new tracks that range from soulful and pretty to downright pop melodramatics. His lyrics tackle topics such as love, heartbreak, and finding happiness through trials and hardships and all that otherwise sappy cliches that somehow seem clearly sincere and remarkable through Levinson’s soothing and varied voice.
The greatest strength here with Levinson is clearly the instrumentation, which seethes with an honesty that is missing from typical top 40 flair. John Mayer’s recent output could have a thing to learn. He never overextends a song into senseless melodrama, always keeping it restrained yet comfortable in its own skin, a sincerity that is very much needed in a musical climate that focuses strongly on manufactured ideals.
“Love You Goodbye” is heartwarming and though lyrically idealistic, it is a perfect representation of Levinson’s sound, hesitant naivety of a man whose aspirations are wide and open and drowning in adoration, yet tinged with a mild recklessness and jadedness that really plays the song well.
For those deeply seeking a singer-songwriter style that places pop hooks as a focus, and refines that with a calming voice and approachable lyrics, Justin Levinson and the Valcours is the right place to be. Some like their music fun and naive, and some like it with a nice heaping spoonful of introspection. Levinson’s music fits right in place with sharing ice cream with a pretty girl on a Friday night.
CD Review: Justin Levinson and The Valcours “This Side of Me, This Side of You”
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“All kinds of musical avenues are covered in the latest record from Justin Levinson & The Valcours t...“All kinds of musical avenues are covered in the latest record from Justin Levinson & The Valcours titled “This Side Of Me, This Side Of You”. An all star cast of instruments of piano,acoustic guitar,electric guitar,strings,electronics,brilliant percussion,trumpet,harmonica,sweeping vocal harmonies, at sometimes an audience, and even a gunshot, truly honor the songwriting and interesting time signatures. The album almost seems to become a play, each song tells a story, smoothly transitioning from an indie rock emo feel, to a show tune feel, to a jazz feel and beyond, while keeping it catchy and tastefully poppy from beginning to end. The lead track, “Water Wears The Rock”, is an upbeat opener introducing the keys as the lead role. “You Became A Ghost” features a beautifully composed club banging drum beat with a sparkling guitar riff. The third track, “Love You Goodbye (feat. Gregory Douglass)” presents some interesting word play by the singer, accompanied by some colorful harmonies. “Bar Scene” is a playful song with lyrics perfect for any twenty-something that has ever questioned purpose in life after a few drinks in a dive bar. Continuing Act 2 within the album is “I’ll Be OK” blending a hint of ragtime with rock jazz. A waltz beat accompanied by the beautiful voice of Liz Longley in the rainy ”I was So Wrong”, is the star of the record. Some great trumpet playing can be heard in the smooth “Say What You’re Gonna Say”.Closing the curtains is “If You’re Happier” with the album ending lyrics, “I Guess I’ll Understand” fading out. Justin hits the rafters with his moonlit harmonies at some points throughout the album, and is a natural songwriter blooming with talent. If you like music even a little bit, you will love this album. This record goes good with house parties,driving to the movies,and even taking a first date to Cirque Du Soleil on a late spring night.”
-Patrick John Burke Jr.
CD review - Justin Levinson and the Valcours, This Side of Me, This Side of You (2012) Optimistic acceptance and effortless hooks
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Like Ben Folds and Fountains of Wayne, Justin Levinson has an intuitive sense for cheery, uptempo po...Like Ben Folds and Fountains of Wayne, Justin Levinson has an intuitive sense for cheery, uptempo pop and effortless hooks. The production on This Side of Me, This Side of You is slick and polished to a shine that primarily reflects Levinson's singer-songwriter style and open personality. Where Folds or FoW can never resist throwing in their trademarked irony, Levinson delivers each track with a direct simplicity.
This imbues the album with an optimistic acceptance. Even when the songs wander familiar trails of breakups and loss, Levinson's breathy vocals never engage the pain. On Water Wears the Rock, the title line serves as a philosophical bandaid:
Love isn't what you thought
Because eventually the water wears the rock...
All the while, the music bounces to a retro poppy groove with hints of easy listening jazz. The bridge music builds into an affirmation that promises it will all work out, even if the lyrics aren't quite sure. The contrast suggests a Buddhist resolution, allowing for the conflict but not being tied to it.
My favorite track, You Became a Ghost, covers similar ground. The chorus talks betrayal but the music isn't burdened:
So cue the spot light and strike a pose
Blame the ones you love, hide behind your vintage clothes
In my darkest hour, when I needed you the most
You became a ghost
The synth strings soften the blows and the production almost sounds triumphant. This mix of light and dark seems to be Levinson's sweet spot.
For all of the poppy sweetness, Levinson's music has a nice depth to it, avoiding cliched 1-4-5 structures. So the songs stand up to repeated listenings. His band, the Valcours, don't inject a lot of personality to compete with the vocals, but like a good set of studio musicians, their competence and tasteful additions round out the arrangements. The songs aren't locked into a formula. One can pair a simple piano with a light Americana guitar and add a dusting of strings to set up a clean ballad feel (Let You Go). Another has the perfect jaunty bass and horns to match Levinson's vaudevillian vocals (I'll Be Ok).
Maybe Levinson is hiding his anguish, but his unapologetic cheer sounds fresh. Give him a listen and see what you think.
Justin Levinson and the Valcours, This Side of Me, this Side of You February 28, 2012 | by Skope
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Justin Levinson and the Valcours celebrate their latest release, “This Side of Me, This Side of You,...Justin Levinson and the Valcours celebrate their latest release, “This Side of Me, This Side of You, with a collection of heartbreak songs that are executed with wit and laughter through the tears.
Now don’t be too sad Justin, there are plenty of girls out there who think a good sense of humor is sexy. This is a 10 track CD with up tempo, bouncy beats that keep your toes tapping and a grin from ear to ear, sure to make you fall in love. It worked for me, I’m happy! Justin has an interesting way of wearing his heart on his sleeve, without skimping on the entertainment.
He describes in some details that love is a force of nature and never comes without rewards or heartaches. But the heartaches are so worth the rewards so don’t be so down on love. After all, who could be anyway after listening to this collection. If you started in a bad mood I do not think you could stay that way for very long. There is a challenge for you, get this CD and I dare you not to smile.
He has a quirky way about him. The songs are hooky and delightful. Strong lyrical content lifted by the Valcours who are heating up your speakers with depth. From springy melodies and adaptable sounds I’ve never seen more surreal content displayed in such a vibrant way.
Justin Levinson and the Valcours are a workforce purging happiness in your life whether you want it or not. But with all the doom and gloom in the world these days, I’d say, “This Side of Me, This Side of You” is a welcoming change.
By: Rebecca Hosking
Justin Levinson and the Valcours, This Side of Me, This Side of You
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If Justin Levinson’s name has become synonymous with easy listening and Elton John covers, that’s ov...If Justin Levinson’s name has become synonymous with easy listening and Elton John covers, that’s over now. On his latest record, This Side of Me, This Side of You, he goes beyond piano-pounding crooner and breaks out of the generic indie-Americana from 2009’s Predetermined Fate. Levinson delivers a breakup album tour de force that runs the gamut from heartache serenades to funky, post-love anthems. With a full band and featured musicians, Levinson has developed a variation and dynamic that he lacked on his previous albums.
Leading with a moody piano-centric ballad, “Water Wears the Rock,” This Side starts slow but picks up quickly. “You Became a Ghost” is an indie-pop gem not unlike Owl City’s “Fireflies” or Death Cab for Cutie, circa “Crooked Teeth.” Unlike Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, who ties personal stories to generation-defining images, Levinson crafts smaller metaphors for his stories within songs.
Sonically, the record showcases a complex range. “Love You Goodbye” is bipolar, with highs and lows stretching from frustrated emo-core shouting to placid, lulling refrains. Syncopated drumbeats, courtesy of Simon Plimpton, fall perfectly with Sean Witters’ glitchy guitar layers between subtle refrains.
Snide humor and breakup bitterness go together like dark chocolate and red wine in “Bar Scene” and “I’ll Be OK.” Both songs are deliciously vaudevillian, à la the Dresden Dolls. Still, the record’s tastiest bits are served by a brass section that makes several spicy cameos. Samples on “Bar Scene” recall “Undone — the Sweater Song” from Weezer’s Blue Album. But instead of becoming emo-undone, Levinson has cabaret-style fun.
He falls a bit short, though, on the whiny ballad “Million Tears” (even if it is perfectly titled). Where Levinson’s falsetto adds a unique and quirky quality to much of the album, here it drags on inarticulately. Every album is entitled to a stinker, and for This Side, this is it. Nine out of 10 ain’t bad.
Though thematically about love gone wrong, This Side of Me, This Side of You is a fun listen. Levinson strikes a balance among sentimentality, wit and humor that would give Ben Folds a run for his money. Each song offers its own distinct color and resonates with the professional musicianship of the Valcours.
Justin Levinson and the Valcours play Radio Bean in Burlington on Saturday, March 3.
JUSTIN LEVINSON & THE VALCOURS This Side of Me, This Side of You
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JUSTIN LEVINSON & THE VALCOURS This Side of Me, This Side of You 10 racks This Side of Me, This...JUSTIN LEVINSON & THE VALCOURS
This Side of Me, This Side of You
This Side of Me, This Side of You chronicles the disintegration of Levinson’s marriage to fellow Vermont singer-songwriter, Myra Flynn.
With that fact in mind, the incongruity to this record is striking. Levinson’s lyrics overflow with acerbic bitterness and utter resignation while the melodies are delivered in the form of Ben Folds-esque piano ballads that could double as show tunes. If one didn’t know the back story, the album might sound like a one-man off-Broadway piano bar show.
The tracks that shine are the ones that find Levinson stepping out of his piano-man comfort zone. Songs like “You Became a Ghost,” which rounds out the mix with guitars and “I’ll Be OK,” replete with its horn section are fully realized songs, whereas other tracks sound like little more than journal entries transcribed directly to piano-ballad.
The album’s standout is “Million Tears” which mashes the best of Levinson’s piano skills some fine guitar works and a melody lifted from John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over.” The result is a fine song that would make a great single. (George Dow)
Examiner Rates Justin Levinson & The Valcours THIS SIDE OF ME, THIS SIDE OF YOU
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To welcome in 2012 in a big way, I decided to introduce you to a singer/songwriter you are sure to l...To welcome in 2012 in a big way, I decided to introduce you to a singer/songwriter you are sure to love for many years to come. Justin Levinson hails from Burlington, Vermont and is a master at what he describes as “feel-good heartbreak.”
With poppy vocals, upbeat melodies and killer lyrics - his new record This Side Of Me, This Side Of You is sure to appeal to a broad range of music lovers.
Lyrics from ‘You Became A Ghost’ (the second track on the album) are the perfect example of how Levinson is able to relive dark times, while simultaneously shining a light on them. Thanks in part to the backdrop of an upbeat melody, the sorrow goes down sweetly. You don’t even realize the depth of what he’s saying, until you replay the lyrics in your mind:
Video: Justin Levinson & The Valcours - Let You Go (Official Music Video)
“The energy of posturing the facade, sharp as glass, the truth is coming out. ... In my darkest hour, when I needed you the most - you became a ghost.”
I’ve included a video for the fourth track ‘Let You Go’ (featuring Will Dailey) which really gives you an idea of what he’s capable of. The lyrics, the music, and the song itself is a great reflection of the album. Only you won’t want to let the record go.
This Side Of Me, This Side Of You contains the following songs and artists:
Water Wears The Rock
You Became A Ghost
Love You Goodbye (feat. Gregory Douglass)
Let You Go (feat. Will Dailey)
I’ll Be Ok
I Was So Wrong (feat. Liz Longley)
Say What You’re Gonna Say
If You’re Happier
Justin Levinson---with backing band The Valcours---ups the ante with a ten-song ode to love and its repercussions. Dressing his distress in an eclectic mix of piano, loud guitars, horns, strings, and dreamy harmonies.
Says Justin on the inspiration behind the album:
“I usually can’t talk about what’s bothering me without cracking a joke. Everyone gets their heart broken at some point--- but why just be mopey about it?”
Justin Levinson & The Valcours will bring you down, lift you back up, and make sure you leave with a grin.
Justin Levinson and The Valcours “This Side Of Me, This Side Of You”
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Justin Levinson and The Valcours “This Side Of Me, This Side Of You” Boston based Levinson has been...Justin Levinson and The Valcours “This Side Of Me, This Side Of You”
Boston based Levinson has been exploring other sounds since his debut years ago, and this new album really showcases that growth. With his new band The Valcours he opens things up with a strong piano melody and punchy beat on “Water Wears The Rock” remind me of Ben Wilkins. Next up, “You Became a Ghost” is a very tight arrangement with great harmonies that will appeal to fans of Ben Folds.
Lyrically its smart and serves up tales of heartbreak like on “Let You Go,” where a fight goes bad (“I will bring my white flag out… let me go”) and the orchestral & horn flourishes are a great touch. “Bar Scene” is like an updated version of “Piano Man,” where the singer is a bitter star (“I used to be somebody”) wallowing in his insecurities. It requires a few listens to get the songs to stick… but stick they do. No real clunkers and standouts include “I’ll Be Okay,” “Million Tears” and the stunning final track “If You’re Happier.” A great return to melodic form – don’t miss it.
CD Baby | Amazon
Bill Schulz “Bill Schulz”
Smack in the middle of cheese-head country (Green Bay, WI) musician Bill Schulz has assembled a polished collection of songs, with an eye on both lushness and spartan production. What stood out to me are two excellent songs, one is the gentle ballad “Olivia” with its looping piano melody and Bill’s hushed vocal is similar to Eric Matthews. The other is “Future Butterfly” a perfectly shimmering guitar hook with echos of Nilsson and Jon Brion. There are other styles of pop here, like the Prince styled minimalist funk of “Everything That You Do” and the nice strumming bounce on “Nothing To Say,” but it’s a pretty strong contrast from the styles of those “hit” singles. Other songs, while listenable aren’t that memorable and a few (“Coal Mine”) feel more like musical doodles.
Levinson’s new tracks stir memories
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Vermont native singer/songwriter Justin Levinson is on a roll, and he's rocking hard. His third al...Vermont native singer/songwriter Justin Levinson is on a roll, and he's rocking hard.
His third album, featuring his band The Valcours, is quick to get stuck in your head and even quicker to cause reflection on every single one of your past relationships in a shockingly positive way for an album so somber.
The first track, "Water Wears the Rock," sets the stage for an album full of deeply metaphorical writing and a sinking sense that heartbreak doesn't have a cure.
Cleverly crafted electronic drumbeats introduce the track, and Levinson's piano falls in with the beat soon after. His raw-sounding voice accompanied by his sharp-as-glass lyrics blend with a pop sound in the instrumentation that will catch anyone's attention.
Finally, a goose bump raising harmony enters the mix, hooks the listener and reels him in with no escape.
"You Became a Ghost" follows the kick-off track with an equally driving beat and eeriness consistent with the track title. The cutting lyrics balance with UVM English professor Sean Witters' smooth, energetic guitar leads, and the celebrated Simon Plumpton drives it home on drums that run through the track right up to the harshly sudden ending.
Not letting a weak song break his listener's trance, Levinson somehow manages to trump the first two tracks with the third. "Love You Goodbye," featuring local singer/songwriter and production artist Gregory Douglass, opens with the most image-provoking lyrics yet: "Flood gates have opened wide, the ticking clock is out of time. I've come undone, lost your love. I don't wanna die alone."
Douglass' distinctive production style comes through on this track in his unique drum sequencing, while Levinson slips in some sarcastic humor that lets the listener crack a smile for a few phrases as Douglass' vocal harmony falls into place. The smile lasts through the words "I love you," before he pauses to sing "Goodbye," and the beat drops in with distorted guitar and a driving drum line.
Staying consistent, "Let You Go" remains heartbreakingly beautiful and significant – "You've gotta tell me that you're done so I can let you go." Simple lyrics carry the song, as does Will Dailey's gentle harmony and album producer Colin McCaffrey's violin playing.
"Bar Scene" and "I'll Be Ok" lighten the mood for a little while, followed by "I Was So Wrong," a lyrically gloomy duet with a heartwarming vocal melody that features Liz Longley.
"Million Tears" takes the listener back to the initial feelings of the album – "Tell me how you wage war with so many broken hearts." These jagged lyrics, a Beatles-esque vocal melody and illustrious Burlington side musician Joshua Glass' flawless harmony accompany Witters' bluesy guitar lines and Levinson's heavy heart.
"Say What You're Gonna Say" starts to bring the album home and sends a message similar to that of the other tracks. The "Art of the Album" is clearly not lost on Levinson. Upbeat instrumentation, including a tasteful horn section that gives the track a full sound, accompanies a drumbeat that gives it bounce.
Levinson wraps it all up with "If You're Happier." Similar to ADELE's "Someone Like You," this track is Levinson's final pitch: "you had to have your distance […] I will pretend that I don't give a damn, cause if you're happier, I guess I'll understand." You can't say goodbye in a much better way than that.
Levinson will celebrate the release of his album at Nectar's in downtown Burlington on Jan. 7. It will later be for sale on iTunes and CD Baby.
Justin Levinson & The Valcours: "This Side of Me, This Side of You" (mini-review)
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There is little doubt that Burlington, VT's Justin Levinson can write a great song. One listen thro...There is little doubt that Burlington, VT's Justin Levinson can write a great song. One listen through his new album, This Side of Me, This Side of You, with The Valcours, proves this.
Levinson cobbles together a compelling and highly enjoyable combination of pop, rock, and roots music. The arrangements are reliably organic with big fat hooks galore. The male/female vocal back-and-forth on "You Became a Ghost" being a shining example.
The best part of any Levinson album, though, is his lyrics. That's no different here as he entertains with tales of love and it's backlash, particularly on the Ben Kweller-esque "Bar Scene" and the Ben Folds-like "I'll Be Ok".
Justin Levinson & The Valcours – “This Side of Me, This Side of You” Review
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Justin Levinson & The Valcours is a rather fantastic ensemble album from singer/songwriter Justin Le...Justin Levinson & The Valcours is a rather fantastic ensemble album from singer/songwriter Justin Levinson and a full crew of musicians backing him up. It’s a step up from his previous efforts as he moves into a Wainwright territory for the future.
Opener “Water Wears the Rock” is a big statement track. Huge rip-roaring choruses, loud drums, piano solos with guitar overtures and a distinct energy that flows from start to finish. “You Became A Ghost” feels like a cinematic pop rock anthem. There’s enough pauses, drum rolls and elating guitar solos to rival a Queen track. It’s fun and approachable and a good starting point to delve into Levinson. “Love You Goodbye” features Gregory Douglass although they are sparsely used. The song itself feels a little clunky as if its been autotracked a bit too tightly for its own good but the melody itself is pleasant enough.
“Let You Go” features Will Dailey and is a sweet rock ballad with some lovely celtic flairs to it which make it quite whimsy while the cabaret brass added to “Bar Scene” is playful while Justin lazily pub sings his way through the song. There’s an annoying bar chat sample that overbears some of the great brass work however. This is why “I’ll Be Ok” works better as it brings all the rough edges together into a playful, wonderful, joyous explosion of music. It’s just one of those infectious songs it’s hard to offended by or dislike.
A wonderful waltzing duet “I Was So Wrong” features Liz Longley gets its country on. Liz’s vocals remind me of Tanya Donelly and the guitar twangs and harmonicas add to create a distinctly different song from the rest of the album. “Million Tears” is a very traditional rock ballad in the Beatles style and showcases Justin’s vocals at its best with various octaves, styles and ranges. “Say What Your Gonna Say” is very 70's in many ways with its clean guitars, sultry brass and light choruses that slightly shimmer. The album closes with “If You’re Happier” which is another classic Beatles style ballad.
This Side of Me, This Side of You has excellent production values. Everything feels full and explosive. Justin’s vocals sometimes sound a bit like the weakest part of the package as they get swamped by the big songs and I’ve never been a fan of talky singing which some tracks slip into. However looking passed my own preferences I can see this being a very popular album and one that should elevate Levinson up the ranks as a well rounded and catchy album that doesn’t sell its core values.
Justin Levinson and The Valcours | This Side of me This Side of You
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Justin Levinson left much of the country flare that bogged down Predetermined Fate and this time inv...Justin Levinson left much of the country flare that bogged down Predetermined Fate and this time invited The Valcours as a backing band to turn his generally singer/songwriter vibes into rock/pop headiness that Ben Folds would applaud and the radio would turn up. This Side of me This Side of You is full of musical play, and although much of it is standard issue, it’s the good kind of standard. The songs sound familiar but not overdone, and sometimes they simply score. Other times, the songs are too familiar, and don’t bring much to the table, but overall, This Side of me This Side of You is a throwback to the era of fat bass under rock piano and one man lamenting his mistakes.
“Water Wears the Rock” is a great example of use of modern day fanciness. The album starter comes in with a synthy beat soft in the mix and Justin singing, “I press my nose against the glass/I peer inside/but there’s nothing.” The band is good. Guitar and piano play the same melody. The bass and drums have fun and keep things lively. Justin’s voice is in the upper range, hitting high notes with ease, and good but not too good. He sounds really real.
“Let You Go” exemplifies the ho-hum of some of the album that isn’t bad at all, just not "Wow." Piano is heavy. Strings swoop in. Guitar softly strums. “Constellations will fall to the ground/all that’s left will be arms and legs.” If Justin has a fault it’s not the ability to make a melody catch, nor to compose a tight and honest song. It’s that his lyrics are mixed metaphors that often seem written in order to hit the chorus.
This is not always the case. “Bar Scene” is super tight. “She had an On and Off switch screwed to my back/there was a chip in my skull.” Justin lets the sound get big. Horns break in the groove. The piano is slightly honky tonk. He’s got some wit and cheese, but totally self-aware. When he gets above the bullshit like this he really shines.
The highlight, however, is “You Became a Ghost”, rich with fuzzy guitar, thunderous strings filling in gaps, and synth driving the whole package together like a set of nails carefully hammered. The music is heavy and hearty. Anthemic, the song begs to be a hit. “In my darkest hour,” Justin shakes his head, “When I needed you the most/you became a ghost.” The song scorches and it’s because the band breaks from the classic formula and takes on a really indie approach to song construction. It suits them well, and this experimentation is peppered throughout the album.
“Say What You’re Gonna Say” brings the horns back. Again, the band relaxes fully; pulling out something ALO would love as far as simple music that in its own right is jarringly catchy. “Pride yourself on love/ditch this ugliness,” Justin sings his wisdom.
The album closes with “If You’re Happier”, a predictable brooding. “If I had you by my side/you were the one.” Oh, man, really? Justin, you can do better than that! When he’s snarky, pissed off, and calling people out, that’s when he finds his niche. The drama doesn’t strike as well as the self-realization.
This Side of me This Side of You doesn’t have any boring parts. The slower stuff is pretty and the fast stuff hits line drives down the center of this playing field. Sit up and take notice, as anyone who likes the mingling of indie credentials with pop materials will find Justin and the Valcours highly entertaining…and heartfelt.
Bottom line: Justin and the Valcours step into their zone and other than a few songs that don’t really break walls down, This Side of me This Side of You has something for everyone.
JUSTIN LEVINSON can perform up to three hours of original music (with some covers); as a full-band, trio, duo, or with Justin playing solo.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.