Curtis Peoples Review: Curtis Peoples

A songwriter with an understanding for what it takes to make a great pop record, Curtis Peoples crafts songs that fans of rock to acoustic folk and pop can enjoy. With a mix of big choruses and jumping rhythms, Curtis’ style of “coffee shop arena rock” incorporates the radio-friendly and inspiring sounds of U2 and Bon Jovi as well as the rhythmic jazz-folk of John Mayer and Jason Mraz into his songs resulting in his own unique musical fingerprint.

Although brand new to the Los Angeles music scene at the time, it took merely a matter of months for Curtis Peoples to score his first big break via a national tour with friend and fellow singer-songwriter Tyler Hilton (Warner Brothers Records, One Tree Hill, Walk The Line). The road certainly agreed with this native of San Diego as tour dates with Josh Kelley, Hanson, Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, Tim Reynolds (longtime Dave Matthews collaborator), Joe Firstman (Carson Daly Show), and others quickly followed. An appearance on Ryan Cabrera’s on-air songwriting competition MTV’s SCORE also served as a platform to perform his original material in front of a national audience.

The music of the Eighties has never been given its fair trial in the court of music. Too many good acts happened during that time; and yet it seems that all anyone can remember now is Rick Astley. While many artists completely reject that anything after 1979 has anything to do with their music, Curtis Peoples embraces the good and bad of classic rock (with a tinge of guitar-heavy hair band) in his latest self-titled album.

A San Diego native who made the inevitable move to L.A., he happily touts the fact that his latest obsession with Van Halen and their arena rock sound is what brought forth the majority of the songs on his album Curtis Peoples. It’s true with the opening track, “Back Where I Started,” that there are definitely guitars heavily influenced by classic rock; although its slower pace sounds much more like The Cars than Van Halen. There are hints of similar guitar riffs in the rest of the album, especially during the guitar-heavy chorus of “Heart Will Fall” (along with a slight hint of Boston-like keyboards); but the majority of songs are more modern and more subdued than classic arena rock. “Holding Me Down” starts off with a beat that suggests Interpol and then leads into a catchy, fast-paced chorus about leaving an oppressive relationship. It’s this kind of exciting fast-paced music that is really the theme of the album; although what would classic rock influenced music not be without some epic ballads as well? “All I Want” is a building, piano-driven piece that leads into a good drum beat and culminates in some hard guitars. It’s the perfect balladic love song that has become the staple of any classic rocker. “One More Time” is another ballad that builds in a similar manner to “All I Want,” but with strings and a lovely guitar solo very reminiscent of Slash from Guns N’ Roses. The album closes with the aptly named song, “Exit Scene”, which does an excellent job of leaving the listeners with an appropriate feeling of catharsis: a little sad that we’ve come to the end, yet still uplifted by the music and optimistic.

When he describes his music as ‘coffee shop arena rock’, it’s the balance of cheekiness and truth behind that phrase that perfectly describes his latest work. None of the music on Curtis Peoples is melancholic or exceptionally sad; the weightiest feeling the listener will hear is nostalgia or simple wistfulness. Yet, there isn’t a need for any “deep” emotion to enjoy the album. It’s a catchy, uplifting rock album. It’s just trying to recapture a bit of the fun and light-heartedness of the Eighties and wrap it into a modern, inoffensive sound that anyone can enjoy.

Review by Nicolas Bunzmann

Grade: A-
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