By Lauren Linhard- ArtsPost Staff Writer
Eric Hutchinson’s debut album, “Sounds Like This,” is perfect for a summer car cruise with the windows down. It’s catchy, light and fun. Unfortunately, it’s just as catchy, light and fun as any other album by an indie pop artist. Hutchinson has followed in the musical footsteps of Jason Mraz, Mat Kearney and Matt Nathanson. Inspiration has to come from somewhere. But “Sounds Like This” so perfectly mimics the sound and themes of other artists, that you wonder how much of Hutchinson is in his album.
Hutchinson’s career had a false start, originally signing with Maverick Records months before the label folded. His recording sessions came to an end and he went on tour, trying to get his name out there. In August 2007, Hutchinson released “Sounds Like This” on his own record label, Let’s Break Records. A few days later, according to the official Eric Hutchinson website, a high school buddy emailed the famed gossip Perez Hilton a link to Hutchinson’s MySpace page. Hilton recommended the new musician and everything fell into place. By September, “Sounds Like This” was featured in the Top 10 albums on iTunes and was No.1 on the Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Still unsigned, Hutchinson and his album remained extremely successful. Warner Bros. Records picked up the album and officially released it in March 2008.
The key is to listen to “Sounds Like This” three times before making a final decision. The first time is for overall effect, which is decidedly enjoyable. The second is for the musical component, which will seem familiar but impressive. And the third is for lyrics, which you will find…surprising. Hutchinson’s piano skill and sexy voice can easily distract from the lyrics. But when you really listen to the actual words of “Outside Villanova,” which is about having sex with an underage girl, shock is an appropriate emotion. Though sexually questionable ethics isn’t a trend throughout the album, including this song was certainly a risky move.
The album focuses around the popular idea of taking life as it comes. Along with musicians like Jack Johnson, Hutchinson tries to embrace his inner soul to communicate an easy-going existence. During “Rock & Roll” you find yourself craving a day at the beach, or at least a tropical drink, as you sway your hips to the reggae music. The spirit of chill continues with the songs “Food Chain” and “OK, It’s Alright With Me.” Though the album doesn’t come off as generic, it doesn’t come off as entirely fresh either. While some songs seem to be taken directly from a Jason Mraz album, there are moments when Hutchinson embraces his jazzy piano and finally gives us a sound that could be his own.
The album explores a variety of musical genres including funk, reggae and jazz. The assortment of sound keeps the album fresh; however, it also causes a slightly jumble feel. There is such diversity on “Sounds Like This,” it is unclear where Hutchinson’s real musical interest lies.
The good news: Hutchinson is young enough and new enough to gain experience and discover his own sound. Eventually he will sift between the funk, reggae, indie pop and jazz that is “Sounds Like This” to find his musical self. The bad news: the opening of “All Over Now” is alarming close to being mistaken for Taylor Swift’s “Love Song.”