In an age where sometimes it seems that computers have replaced instruments and auto-tune has replaced voice lessons, from time to time it’s best to go back to the basics of raw simplicity — to show off your untainted, unrestricted talent in a stripped-down and intimate way. Joshua Michael Robinson’s Intentions does just that, combining powerful lyrics with modest instrumentals that really shine the spotlight on his distinctive voice.
Opening track “Dress” layers a consistent beat and a simple piano pattern meeting a complex bass line, together accentuating Robinson’s vocal performance and creating an extraordinary introduction to the record. He continues this chic simplicity in follow-up tracks “Cherokee,” “Don’t Hold Back,” and “Heavy,” all of which create a charm that makes for beautiful and soulful arrangements through which his fervor truly shines. However, Robinson clearly plays it safe in terms of his vocal range. While his voice recalls the raspy, seductive edge of singers like Isaac Slade of The Fray, who knows what he could be capable of if he showed off his range more.
“Black & White” picks up the pace of the album with its seductive guitar riffs layered with lighter piano and a vocal presentation that will bring any listener to the edge of their seat. “Only I Know” is bound to spark listeners’ interest as it features guest vocals from Aaron Marsh (Copeland, The Lulls in Traffic), who also produced the album. “Content” follows suit with Robinson’s traditional acoustic guitar introduction, eventually joined by the violin and tambourine along with a more energized drum beat that makes for a notably more energetic track and a personal favorite.
Perhaps the most interesting element of this album was Robinson’s play on words in his song titles. “The Wait for Your Hand” and “The Weight of Your Hand” are two songs that, together, tell a tragic love story. The former is a slower, melodic, sentimental love song that is filled with fiery passion and longing from start to finish. Robinson shows off his incredible range with a remarkable falsetto bit at the song’s bridge to really bring the song home. The second of the pair of songs tells the other side of this love story — that he is not nearly as happy as he thought he would be in this relationship. The lower key of the song gives a sense of confidence and a hint of sarcasm, while the incorporation of the brass in the song gives it a jazzy, sassy twist.
Robinson’s variance in background instrumentals immediately makes Intentions a standout among other indie artists. While standout tracks “The Weight of Your Hand” and “Content” are both must-haves for any music lover, the entire album is perfect for fans of the likes of Snow Patrol, The Fray, and John Mayer. Despite its being a solid record overall, it was still vocally conservative for the most part; “The Wait for Your Hand” is absolutely a step in the right direction, but Robinson could absolutely do even more incredible things if he would take risks like that more often.