CommonUnion59 - Heartbeat Serenade

Release February 11, 2015

By Graham White

CommonUnion59, the folk singer-songwriter duo from San Francisco, California, is preparing to release a folk/alt-country album that is as ripe with emotion as it is intimate. Made up of Steve McKenzie and Laura Malasig, CommonUnion59’s soon to be released album Heartbeat Serenade will delight listeners with story-like tracks that are full of brilliant imagery and pure emotion. With musical arrangement not unlike that of The Beatles, each track is impressively interesting. While it is no lyrical masterpiece, the combination of McKenzie’s and Malasig’s vocals is both unique and surprisingly beautiful, taking on a sound that feels like it ought to have been enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame for decades. Musically, the album is beyond amazing, with a wide variety of instrumentation ensuring that no two songs could be mistaken for each other. To consider the album as solely folk or country would be impractical, as psychedelic and expressive guitar shines alongside the slow country feel. It is an album that contains traces of many genres, which is a testament to their musical capabilities.

It’s Alright starts off the album with a distinct country feel, and while the repetitive lyrics lose their lustre, they are executed with precision alongside a slow grooving beat that keeps listeners enthralled. Musically endearing, the track is addictive in its simplicity and sing-along quality. American Dream follows, where listeners get a taste of the amazing combination of the two singer-songwriter’s voices, as well as a touch of their storytelling capabilities. Lyrics that paint such an intricate picture serve to bring the listener along on a journey through the American frontier. The River Song fills the listener with emotion, as slide guitar washes behind Malasig’s pure vocality. Of all the tracks on the album, The River Song has the most powerful lyrics, something that I can only wish was spread throughout the album. From Where We Are has a classic country feel, with guitar grooving eloquently and with a vocal quality that is simply unmatchable. The pair of singer-songwriters has the amazing ability to woo listeners with their vocality despite slightly cliché lyrics. Little White House has the quality of a musical story, creating a truly beautiful track that draws the listener in and tugs at their heartstrings. Full of emotion and Malasig’s expressive vocals, the track embodies that beautiful fear and sadness that so few songs are able to create.

Heartbeat Serenade marks the first track in which McKenzie’s voice is heard on its own. While not nearly as powerful as Malasig’s solo tracks, his voice has a unique quality that is just as enjoyable when in cohorts with the rising intensity of the track. Today follows with McKenzie adopting a lower tone that gives out so much emotion, creating a sound that, when combined with Malasig’s higher register, is indescribable, except as pure love. Today mirrors From Where We Are in its lyrics, creating bookends for the emotional internal tracks. Catch The Wind employs a beautiful string section, giving the track a flowing quality that is rather wind-like, lifting the listener with its swells and curves. Emotional, like the entirety of the album, the track invokes a powerful feeling of longing and love. Not Dead Inside calls the listener forth with rising piano and the vocal perfection that I have come to expect from this album. There is something truly beautiful when it comes to the combination of McKenzie’s and Malasig’s vocals, as they create pure emotion within the listener. The track rises powerfully, building the listener’s expectations, preparing them for an explosion of sound, and yet, that explosion never comes. It is rather disappointing to discover that there is no cacophony of sound to end the track, instead opting to conclude the track almost hastily. This Universe ends the album with fingerpicked guitar that mirrors Malasig’s vocals. An appropriate end to the album, the track is a calming conclusion.

Heartbeat Serenade is an album that proves the serious potential of CommonUnion59. Their vocal talents and musical abilities far outweigh the often minimal lyrics, making for an album that is pure emotion. Folk/alt-country listeners be prepared for the 11th of February, 2015, when Heartbeat Serenade will be released.    

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