The Moment is available at:
RELEASED: 17th April 2016
GENRES: Acoustic-Soul; Folk
Los Angeles, U.S.A.
The album, America’s for Dreamers, is available to pre-order at:
17th May 2016
ASIDE from the fact Radiohead release their new album...
in a matter of hours (7pm G.M.T.): I am excited by today in general: the sun threatens to rear its head and spring blossom; another interesting artist is in view. As psyched and pumped as I am for Radiohead’s new album- whatever it is called and whatever is contains- my featured artist provides plenty of food for thought. Before I come to him, it seems I am, once more, in California. I keep telling myself I’ll get away from London and California: find some new avenues and towns; fresh corners for music. The quality and consistency (of these areas) lure me back: I am happy to be back here. There are few solo artists that not only promote altruism and hopefulness: they get in the memory and stick in the brain. I find so many solo artists- mainly the guys- that are either slight and reedy- or else they are generic and tired. There are few musicians that have a wise head on a young body: manage to portray something deep and thought-provoking- without coming across preachy or boring.
With a proliferation of bands and ‘heavier’ artists- those that employ heavy percussion and electronics- it is nice finding a musician that can do subtlety and compassion: ensuring the music packs plenty of kick and memorability. Before I continue on, let me introduce J.C. Villafan to you:
“Hailing from Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter JC Villafan has been honing his craft since 16 years old, performing in front of an American audience, as well as touring in Europe where he built a new loyal fanbase. His delightful blend of pop, rock and folk especially won hearts in France, where his music has been highlighted on national television and radio, as well as in major media outlets. Whether at home or abroad, he has always made time to give to the community and ensured to working towards his ultimate goal: to inspire and encourage others to pursue the greatest fulfillment of their wildest dreams.
These beautiful values of altruism and hard work have been instilled in him by his parents whom he wants to give pride of place to for the next step of his career. After releasing the Sweet Time EP — nominated in 2012 for Best EP at the L.A. Music Critic Awards — and its follow-up I Still Believe in 2014, JC Villafan is reflecting on his journey and his heritage in his debut album America’s for Dreamers. Back in 1991, his then 5-month-pregnant mother climbed the fence separating Mexico from the United States with her husband, wholeheartedly hoping to offer him a brighter future. « The story of the album continues with my ceaseless pursuit of a dream. A selfless dream that oversights fame and fortune for making a difference and uplifting those who stop to listen. The album ends at exactly right where I find myself today », he explains.
America’s for Dreamers is set to be released on May 17 (the iTunes pre-order starts on April 28)and will be followed by a European tour kicking off in Belgium on June 2nd, before making its way to Germany, France and the UK and eventually heading back home for a few more dates in California”.
On paper, J.C. Villafan seems like a very rare specimen: a musician that has a unique past and a very different way of working. Being buried in a mass of artists- across social media and the Internet- you do not often get time to connect with the person behind the music. A lot of time; you listen to a song/songs and that is it: occasionally, you bond with that act and follow their careers. It can be quite hard with bands: there are several personalities so it is difficult to make that all-important connection. J.C. Villafan has a back-story that seems made-for-Hollywood in its extraordinariness and danger. Villafan’s debut album is the story of his exceptional past: his mother climbing fences and finding a new home; maturing as a musician and supporting the community. America’s for Dreamers is very much that idea of The American Dream: finding somewhere with opportunity and safety; a new life and home. Based in Torrance: the 24-year-old is inspiring his fellow musicians and helping people around him; instilling family values that were given to him. It is rare to find someone who has that much consideration and love for those around them. There are too many musicians that focus solely on their own careers: they do not give enough back and struggle to reach out to their fellow man. When it comes to the music itself: J.C. Villafan has captivated a huge amount of people. A celebrated name in California: he has toured Europe and shows no signs of slowing down. Artists that play similar sounds- Acoustic-Folk- can often struggle to resonate with everyone: they very much have their audience and do not break through barriers and boundaries. J.C. Villafan has a talent that means he is impossible not to love. The music is exceptional and filled with story, wisdom and depth. The performances have plenty of heart and emotion: topped by vocals that get under the skin and cause you to smile and reflect. After successful E.P.s and critical acclaim: the Torrance-based artist is preparing for that all-important debut album release. All the initial signs are positive: here is a musician that can go as far as he wants; you would not bet against him being a big name in years to come. California (and L.A.) has a vibrant and supportive musical scene: many people are realising what a fantastic proposition J.C. Villafan is.
Back in 2012: Villafan released his E.P., Sweet Time. It was one of the first things he put out there and showed what confidence he had. The title track is s soulful and swinging track that boosts kick, groove and expression. Imploring a lover- who has perhaps left him- there is that desire to recapture the flame. Whilst exploring well-trodden ground- lost love and longing- the way J.C. Villafan represents it marks it aside from the pack. The Other Me is a confessional and mature offering. The hero made mistakes and is a changed man. Maybe in the past, he has been culpable of errors and weaknesses: this is a song that declares a new person has been born. Once more, the vocal performance is filled with soul and power; plenty of intensity and promise. The entire E.P. has a very defined sound and style. Each track covers issues of love and relations to an extent. Our hero looks at the past (who he used to be) and wants to change his ways. Perhaps a find love has been lost: determined to get it back; there is that desire and supplication that shines through. The consistency and talent is impressive and laudable: few artists begin with such conviction and promise. Every song has that contemporary/mainstream vibe to it: like they could easily slot into radio-play rotations. America’s for Dreamers- and The Moment, for that matter- shows a step forward and change for Villafan. The current offerings are more Folk/Acoustic-based and are less intense and powerful than Sweet Time. Given the subject matter and inspiration- crossing the border to make a life in America- perhaps bombast and celebration are commodities ill-fitting and unnatural. Villafan is more reflective and emotional on his debut L.P. In that respect: the lyrics have changed from stories of love to look at something more original and personal.
Most artists have experiences of heartache and love: most are incapable of bringing anything new to the table. Sweet Time packed plenty of wonder into the mix: you got the impression the young American had more at his disposal; his best work was still ahead. Whilst the performances are convincing and passionate: our hero’s talents were not fully exploited and explored. The Moment- and the album as a whole- sees Villafan grow and mature as a songwriter. Breaking away from worn subjects: we have a musician that stands out from his peers; much richer and fascinating. Perhaps the vocals lack necessary distinction: that will come with time and experience. J.C. Villafan is getting stronger and bolder as time elapses. Still in his 20s: you wonder just how far the Californian can go. I would like to see him explore more family-based issues and the community at large- stray away from love and relations for a bit. That is where his niche lies: his altruistic attitude and vivid beginnings. Few musicians have had such a hard beginning: America’s for Dreamers is the kind of work you want from him. It will please existing fans and ensure that more are brought into the fold. If he can find his true potential- vary the vocals and put more variation into the composition- he will be an artist that will be hard to ignore.
Skip, rush and blood-flow begins The Moment. Villafan is an exceptional guitar player and shows plenty of drive and intensity in the opening moments. The guitar has such a vibrancy and charm to it: I was reminded of the Folk greats- both U.S. and U.K.-born- and you get a real sense of authority and control. Hooked and fascinating by the spirited opening coda: The Moment is a song that begins with bags of heart. “Wait for the perfect time” are the first words: right away, you begin to speculate just what that could mean. Truth and meaning are explored. I am not sure who Villafan is directing towards- perhaps a lover or sweetheart. Given the album’s arc- his parents coming to the U.S. and making a new life- there is ample mystery and open-for-interpretation (appeal) to the song. Our man is opening up his eyes and realising truths. In these early phases, there is some obliqueness and cards-close-the-chest. There is a dream “still alive”: something Villafan is opening his eyes to; something pure and much-needed. You wonder whether love or opportunity is being assessed. Whether casting himself in the role of his parents- or discovering something very personal to him- The Moment gives the listener opportunity to conspire and guess. Our man is making his plans and not looking back: you can feel that determination and ambition. Riding a rushing and effusive guitar line- the performance is tight and compelling throughout- the vocal is suitably soul-laden and rich. On his debut-era work; Villafan was still discovering himself and working on his sound. The Moment- and the album as a whole- might have some weakness: as an artist; you cannot fault the development and growth. Lyrically, the American is a lot stronger than he has ever been. The vocals contain more nuance and depth; the composition strike a little harder- all encouraging signs.
Been called-out by this moment: the hero has his eyes closed and is dreaming of something fantastic and desired. Villafan puts in one of his most lustrous and hypnotic vocals to date. Filled with beauty and heart: few singers have such a stunning voice at their disposal. You would need a heart of stone not to be affected and won by the spirit of The Moment. Our hero looks for a sign and signal. He casts his eyes around but the truth is this: nothing will stop him achieving his dreams and reaching his goals. It seems like (our hero) has crossed the border and is seeing America for the first time. In a wider sense: The Moment could be about achieving musical success; perhaps it is from the perspective of his parents- reaching a promised land and escaping a harder life. Containing so much depth and layers: each listener will have their own theory when it comes to the song. In the past, perhaps Villafan was hesitant and watching moments pass him by. That is the case no more: Talismans are being grabbed and opportunities clasped: this is the time for J.C. Villafan to shine. Captivated and seduced by the vocal and performance- that seems to grow more intense and delicious- my mind gets into the song and pictures the scenes unfolding. I envisage something musical and career-minded. Whilst America’s for Dreamers documents his parents’ travel from Mexico- here, there seems to be something personal and romantic. Maybe I am over-interpreting or overlooking the point: I can vision a particular person; a lover or close connection of Villafan. The final seconds (to The Moment) drive the key messages home. That need for grasping dreams comes through clear: the determination to succeed and gain something pure. Whatever your interpretation of the song- and whatever angle you approach it from- you cannot help but be charmed and amazed by Villafan’s performance. Committed and filled with passion: one of (America’s for Dreamers’) key tracks.
I have had the pleasure of hearing America’s for Dreamers- one of the little perks of being a reviewer. The ten-track L.P. starts with plenty of passion and pride. The title track is a that sees the hero among the mountains and rivers; finding himself in a new land. It seems dreams are useless: unless his love can chase dreams with him. There is some irony and incompleteness early on. Although the U.S. is made for those that dreams: it is only worthy and whole when there is somewhere with you. An indelible and passionate chorus means the song will affect upon the first listen. It is a big and bold song that shows what a vocalist Villafan is. His performance is empathic and filled with tremulousness and strength. Your Love provides more reflective and desirous. Whilst there are some well-worn tropes and clichés- love being deeper than oceans; hotter than the sun etc. - the conviction and purity of the words makes up for it. Villafan shows he is adept and nimble when it comes to compositions. Every song has different skin and sound: he is not a musician that puts the bare-minimum into anything. Little Boy is one of the album’s highlights. Filled with entrancing and heavenly vocal layers- our hero harmonises with himself- it is one of the most tender songs on record. Wanting to stand up to “whatever holds me down”: Be Free is that desire for success and progress; the need to throw off shackles and achieve dreams and happiness. These are moments in an album that show plenty of promise and talent.
Whilst (perhaps) not varied enough to appeal to everyone: there is enough depth and fine moments within America’s for Dreamers. The album looks at two lovers as they cross the Mexican/American border- namely; J.C.’s parents. It is a tale of escaping a rather limited and hard life: traveling to America in search of sanctuary and new opportunities. In film terms, it is a rather well-worn subject: less-so when it comes to music. You often hear about musicians that focus solely on themselves: their love lives and the heartache they face. It is rare to find someone who documents their parents’ struggles and background- essentially, how he became to be. Throughout the story arc- from crossing the border to the young man finding himself in the U.S. - you get immersed in J.C. Villafan’s itinerant and against-the-odds upbringing. Perhaps the vocals and sound might- at times- put you in mind of Ed Sheeran his contemporaries- somebody I have decried often enough- it is a minor slight in an otherwise excellent album. J.C. Villafan will continue to grow and find his own voice. As a lyricist, he puts plenty of personal revelation and uniqueness in. Not only do you get the family lineage and travels to America: there are wonderful little moments and exchanges between lovers (his parents) - few artists are as distinct and deep. The compositions are varied enough but could do with a bit more edge and power at times. Relying on Acoustic-Folk sounds too much: a harder, Rock edge could benefit a few of the tracks. I know Villafan wants to cement a reputation and style: some more compositional flexibility would make the music more engaging and varied. Small quibbles aside and you have a young man that could well be making big splashes very soon. America’s for Dreamers is an album that shows a huge amount of work and intensity. The songs are not lazily slung-together and effete: each number sounds well-rehearsed and authoritative. With some clear and polished production: every song is crisp, clear and refined. I started by looking at new music coming out- Radiohead’s album later today- and how good that will be.
To be fair: 2016 has been a very dark and sad year for music. Aside from some notable deaths- Prince, Bowie and Lemmy among them- there have been few (mainstream) acts to get excited about. It seems the tide is turning and some real quality is coming through. British acts like James Blake and Radiohead are causing excitement: Beyoncé has released a career-defining album; there are promising albums in the pipeline. The underground/primed-for-the-big-time musicians have always fascinated me. This year has been very prosperous and exciting for new musicians. J.C. Villafan is another artist I know will have a golden career ahead. Having been raised in L.A.: he finds himself in California, still; clearly at home among the fascinating neighbourhoods and people; the sunshine and scenery- the magic and inspiration. Let’s hope there are plenty more albums in the 24-year-old. America’s for Dreamers is a solid and confident effort from a bright proposition. The Moment is available on YouTube and- the version available- is a stripped-down and raw offering (the album version is a little more polished and layered). It is a song that perfectly represents J.C. Villafan: a striking vocal and incredibly story; wonderfully rich composition and huge commitment throughout. If you tire of the same old musicians their stories of broken love and break-ups: you should check out an artist that has a very different story indeed. Much more fascinating and unique that most of the new artists out there: a rarity that should be embraced and celebrated. America’s for Dreamers is out on May 17th and I recommend you go and get it. Until then- to tide you over- check out The Moment and a fantastic young musician whose…
STORY has only just begun.
Follow J.C. Villafan