[All images courtesy of Mark Crews]
Looking to learn a little more about the world without having to leave your couch? Check out Culture Me, the newest album from Indiana-based artist, Kaanvas!
Also known as Mark Crews, Kaanvas has been involved in music for about sixteen years. Thanks his his experience, he is able to produce everything—videos, albums, demos, and even designs—by himself.
In 2017, Kaanvas began his latest album, Culture Me, which helped him learn more about himself after a devastating relationship failure and dealing with the resulting struggles with mental illness.
“Walk” starts the album off with a catchy guitar riff and clean, clear vocals. The lyrics’ phrasing matches up with the instrumental melody in a pleasant way, adding to the track’s overall groove. The intensity of the delivery echoes the lyrics’ pain: “I wanna be in love with you, I do/Let it out, let it in, It’ll work/I know I don’t wanna run around, I don’t wanna let you down.” The rhythm created by the delivery of the lyrics creates a song that is easy to sing along to.
The title of “Science Helps” is intriguing in itself, and I was brought even further into the song’s hold with the guitar introduction. The instrumentals flow incredibly well in this track, creating a perfect backdrop for vocals. Sweetened up since “Walk,” Kaanvas’ voice is hypnotizing in “Science Helps” as he mourns a lost love, honesty and angst clear in is delivery. The volume shifts throughout the track also made it dynamic and interesting to listen to, especially for listeners who need a powerful break-up anthem to get their feelings out.
“Let’s Talk” brings an acoustic style into Culture Me, a great move to add a touch of softness. The gentler instrumentals highlight the softness of the vocals, bringing a new depth to the audio elements of the track. With simple but interesting strumming patterns and a more pronounced low end, “Let’s Talk” allows for a more varied sound that I appreciate as a full-album listener, a path I highly recommend for anyone who’s thinking of taking a listen to Kaanvas’ music.
“Catch 22” continues the theme of lost love into the middle portion of the album. The see-sawing vocal tones combined with the steadiness of the instrumentals give the track an off-beat rock style, sure to please fans of bands like Weezer, who employ similar audio techniques. Although the song’s tempo lags a bit, it fits the style and incorporates a grunge aesthetic in a unique way.
The instrumentals of “Happy” do, in fact, make me happy! I love the varying thickness of the layers of instruments, and how each is pronounced or shifted into the background at different times in the song. This track is one of my favorites of Culture Me for the juxtaposition between the title and tone of the instrumentals with my interpretation of the lyrics. Despite the friendly lilt to the guitar lines and upbeat vocal tones, the lyrics show the truth: “I try hard to seem happy, even though I know I’m not.” For many people who have to hide their sadness behind a fake smile, “Happy” will be utterly relatable.
The decision to put “You Know My Name” after “Happy” is a good one. Compared to “Happy,” “You Know My Name” is much denser and darker, providing an intense listening experience in its juxtaposition. The vocal lines of this track really illustrate Kaanvas’ range: At the song’s climax, a bit of grit enters the highest, loudest stretches of his voice, giving it an unparalleled potency. I almost wish “You Know My Name” was longer so we could hear even more!
With the shortest running time of the album at 1:25, “Memory” features echoing vocals and a haunting acoustic guitar line. The difference in aesthetics between this recording and those surrounding it is a bit odd, creating an ethereal feeling for the track that makes it an attention-grabber. Acting as an interlude with its voice recordings and strange vibes, “Memory” does feel like a half-remembered moment grabbed from a corner of someone’s brain.
The guitar lines of “Raindrops” reflect the calming pitter-patter of the song’s namesake, a wonderful complement to its soothing vocal harmonies. The lyrics, too, are poetic and sensory: “Is that a raindrop on my heart/You can’t explain it from the start/How can I wrap myself around my mind, my mind/Is there a reason it took so long/To tell me a signal in your song/How can I tell myself it’s fine?/I tried, I tried.” The lyrics’ phrasing also added originality to the track, providing Culture Me with another solid hit.
“Senseless” is the sole explicit track on Culture Me. I don’t typically care for unnecessary cursing in songs, but I was alright with the one F-bomb Kanvaas dropped in “Senseless,” although it might prevent others who dislike explicit music from giving it a chance. Luckily, if it is ever an issue when it comes to radio play, an altered clean version would be pretty easy to make.
The raw emotion in “Senseless” is tangible. Kaanvas does an immaculate job of conveying pain through his lyrics and their delivery, making the track feel honest, unlike today’s typical whiny version of a breakup song. The measured leisure of the instrumentals allowed every lyric to be stretched and defined exactly as Kaanvas felt they should be, resulting in a powerful ballad of loss.
Kaanvas really has a talent for reflecting his song titles in the tracks themselves. “The Ocean” seems to breathe on its own, an entity with a heartbeat. Placed perfectly as the second-to-last song of Culture Me, “The Ocean” is full of trickling guitar lines and a mix of smooth and jagged vocal parts. The lyrics are full of feeling, saying simply what Kaanvas needs to say—”I’m sorry”—in words, but so much more in the subtext.
“Best That I Can” is the final song of Culture Me. With deep, steady backing instrumentals and tingling guitar overlays, the track has a great finality to it that wraps up the album nicely. The lyrics are well-written and not cliche, although at times are harder to understand than other songs in the album: “Feeling like an old man/But doing the best that I can/Breaking down at your pictures….” Like many of Kaanvas’ songs, “Best That I Can” feels real, like a look into an artist’s journey through life.
Kaanvas plans to play live as much as he can in 2019 as a part of his goal to finally treat music like the dream it always has been. A follow-up EP is in the works for songs that didn’t make the cut for Culture Me, and there are a ton of new designs for shirts, buttons, stickers, and more fun merch coming soon!
Stay cultured with Kaanvas:
***Like all of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post***
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