Andrew Nolte’s new record Climbing Uphill

The ethereal radiance of the guitars that commences the beginning of Andrew Nolte’s new record Climbing Uphill is almost overpowering in its initial eruption of a sunshine-like melody in “My Avatar,” but as the song finds a graceful swing to match the deliberate croon of Nolte, the aforementioned glimmer is transformed into something both palatable and pop-friendly. The vocal track is situated between the mild bass tones and the springy percussion, allowing for maximum control in the corner of our leading man, who is sounding more mature than he ever has in this latest release. As “Speak My Heart” softly fills the void left behind by “My Avatar,” it becomes quite clear that Climbing Uphill is much more than just a new EP from an intrepid songwriter – it’s a love letter to music aficionados everywhere.

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The rumbling rhythm of “Speak My Heart” doesn’t kick in until we’re roughly two-thirds of the way through the song, but that doesn’t matter – by this point, we’re already under the spell of Andrew Nolte with little hope of seeing it broken within the next twenty minutes. “I Need You” continues the lush, atmospheric harmonies of the two tracks that come before it, but invites an Americana-style brooding into its lyricism that can be heart-wrenching when the song is isolated from the other compositions on this record. This is Nolte’s best vocal to date, and in the chorus he demonstrates a melodic attack that could be the most beautiful of any that I’ve heard in the last three months. He’s flirting with Darren Jessee territory here, which is no small complement to give to those in the know.

Climbing Uphill’s title track is probably its most effervescent in tone, but it’s not a stab at mainstream folk/pop at all. It sets us up for the wonderment that draws the curtains closed in “Magic,” and when played in succession with each other, they sound more like a live medley than they do two songs that were intended to be heard separately. Once again, it’s the vocal that dominate our focus in both of these glittering, single-worthy tunes, but this isn’t to say that the instrumentation leaves something to be desired. Every inch of this extended play is a must-listen moment, and that isn’t something that can be said about the similarly-stylized records that I’ve heard in September (or all of 2019 for that matter).

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When “Magic” retreats into the silence that was broken four songs ago by the incredible harmonies of “My Avatar,” the churn of the strings continues to circle on for what feels like an eternity – that is, if you enjoyed the content of Climbing Uphill as much as I did. This is a downright addictive set of songs, and even if it doesn’t give us the full scope of what Andrew Nolte could accomplish if he was given just a slightly bigger budget and a little more creative freedom in the studio, I still think that it’s a tough record for any band or solo artist to beat right now. Climbing Uphill is a five-star EP delivered by a singer/songwriter well on his way to the big leagues.

Michael Rand

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