TRACK REVIEW: Danelle Sandoval (ft. French Braids) - Hands



Danelle Sandoval (ft. French Braids)







The track, Hands, is available via:


Pop; R&B


Los Angeles, U.S.A./Toronto, Canada


17th August, 2018


I cover a lot in various reviews and it can be hard…


to come up with new things to say each time. In the case of Danelle Sandoval, there is quite a lot of new ground to cover. I wanted to talk about L.A. and the clemency of the scene there; posting covers online and starting down the music-sharing avenue; taking new routes into Pop and fusing vocals from Soul/R&B artists; finding new lease and life with a collaborator; Canadian difference and unique flair (compared to the U.S.); bringing in childhood influences and carrying them along with you. I will start with L.A. because a lot of songwriters go there and seek out guidance. It is seen as this desirable city to record and produce in because of the idyllic weather and scenery. I have never been myself but know a lot of artists who go there to get inspired. It seems like an obvious and age-old choice. Film actors and T.V. performers seek out the glamour and romance of L.A. For artists, there is a huge scene and a vast array of venues and contemporaries there. Like London; I wonder whether there is too much choice and it is a little intimidating. Certainty, one has the chance to drink in the full gamut of sounds and colours coming from Los Angeles. You go there with ambitions to be successful and get a load of gigs but, in many cases, it can be a struggle. I am not saying this to be depressing but it is true: L.A. is not for everyone. In the case of Sandoval; she has learned a lot from the city and started her creative life out there. The songwriter did a lot of good in Los Angeles and the fact she has the array of sounds she does, in my mind, is down to L.A. It is great to see an artist grow and take distinct aspects from a city. The rush and energy of Los Angeles fed into her blood and the ambition you need (if you live in L.A.) has pushed her to become bigger and better.


Los Angeles’ biggest draw and point, as I see it, is the choice and venues. It may not be easy to get noticed and stand out but, even for a smaller musician, you have chances. Los Angeles is a vast landscape and you can cut your teeth at smaller venues around the city. You can catch a gig every night of the week and get a sense of what the people want; check out local radio and do research regarding pitching music and what the D.J.s are listening to. It is the same situation with London: there is a dizzying array of people and musical options but, if you take your time and stay focused, you can learn an awful lot. Sandoval was in L.A. for a while and, for whatever reason, felt a bit of a funk. Perhaps it was the rush and exhaustion of being in a place like that but she sort of retrenched and needed a spark. People can get into that headspace: spending a long time in a city and finding it a bit tiring. I can understand why people come to L.A. and want to thrive there but I also get why many will get a bit weary and it can be hard to find that influence. What do you do when you reach that point when you need a new lease? Sandoval spent a long time working and pitching in L.A.; she was performing and recording but she wanted to take her music in a new direction. Maybe she has reached the end of what the city could provide and, one day, she met French Braids. He was in L.A. visiting – he hails from Toronto – and the two started to work on a new song, Hands. All at once, there was this new brain and voice coming out that compelled Danelle Sandoval and led to an instant and natural song. That is the way things go at times: songwriters need an additional voice and angle to uncover something rooted inside them.


In the case of French Braids; there is that experience mixing with the fire and energy of a young songwriter. Sandoval decided to split her time between Los Angeles and Toronto and, in many ways, take a big leap. Collaborators can be a saviour when it comes to renewed love and focus. Sandoval and French Braids worked on this new song and, compare it to her previous work and there is a definite difference. Look at artists through time and the way a new producer/collaborator can reinvent what they do. As an example – it might not be relevant to Sandoval – Madonna started work on her album, Bedtime Stories, and changed musical direction. A less saucy and adult version of what she was recording before; she joined forces with Babyface and that smoother, R&B-led direction resulted in songs such as Take a Bow. Not only is that song (and album) a more mature direction from Madonna; it shows her exploring new ground and moving into a creative space she had not stepped into up until that point. In many ways, the comparison is not too ambitious and far-fetched. Sandoval is a songwriter who has a love of R&B, as I shall explain later, and that is sort of brought out in her collaboration with French Braids. Many might say a songwriter should go their own way and trust their own voice. If you add other people to the mix then that might take away the personal and pure. They might have too much of an influence or it can seem more like a duet. Rather than overwhelm the song and have too much of a say; French Braids has put his elements and input into the song and brought out something fantastic. I can hear a lot of artists get a bit weary and need a sense of purpose and direction. Maybe they have released a few songs and, when it comes to the next phase, they do not want to repeat themselves.


Danelle Sandoval was in L.A. and was in a city that, I guess, was a bit overwhelming at times. She has been writing a lot and releasing material but there was something missing. Maybe she did not want to go in the same direction or perhaps there was fatigue forming. French Braids was a fresh mind and body and showed there was a lot more potential and brilliance to be mined from the songwriter. Many would forgive Sandoval for moving away and going somewhere quieter. Instead; Sandoval split her time between Canada and America and seems to be in a better place. Hands is taken from her forthcoming E.P., For Love, and things are going well for the songwriter. I wonder whether she will work with French Braids on future E.P.s and they will form a partnership. It is clear there is a close relationship and they get one another. Songwriters who feel like they need more company or a fresh pair of eyes could look out into the world for producers and artists. It may only be for a song or two but that new partnership can uncover something buried inside and bring it to the surface. From there, the mind is opened and it could lead to a lot more music. L.A. was a draw because of its glitz and polish. She wanted to succeed there and get some form of recognition. She did that but it is true something was lacking. Maybe it was soulfulness or a sense of authenticity. L.A. is more Pop-based and predictable when it comes to sounds whereas Toronto is a place that allows more personality and flexibility. French Braids allowed Sandoval to be experimental and step outside the box. She has retained the Pop edge and flavour but brought in other sounds and elements. This revelation and new discovery has transformed her music and opened her eyes.


Sandoval started posted covers online and released original music on SoundCloud from 2016. Although she began writing songs from the age of ten and playing guitar aged twelve; she moved to online and put her music out to the world. I feel a lot of new songwriters coming through have been going for a while. Many of us assume artists start fairly late and do not connect with music until they are adults. Maybe there are artists who do not have a lot of musical talent but, in quite a few cases; artists start as children and grow from there. It is impressive to know Danelle Sandoval has been playing for a long time and had that love instilled in her very young. She started by posting covers and testing the waters. Having that basic knowledge and passion within; she utilised the Internet and, when moving to SoundCloud, started to gain a larger audience. I know there are a lot of artists who have thrived and survived through the years without the Internet – or they came onto the scene before the Internet – but you cannot underestimate the value and market that is out there. I am thankful for the Internet because it allows me to put my work out there and see it shared. I love being able to connect with the wider world and having an audience. For artists; it can be hard getting a foothold and finding popularity but the music-sharing and streaming services are a valuable and limitless avenue for exploration. Sandoval can/does put her songs out on these platforms and can get instant reaction. Whilst it might be quite scary going out into the digital world; you can reach a lot more people through the Internet. Sandoval gigs and plays live as much as possible but she knows the potency of music-sharing websites. Chart her development and how she moved from a talented young musician to a fresh and energetic talent who is born to do this.


She matured to being this artist who wants to share her music with the world and knows what it takes to succeed. Sandoval was exposed to music as a child. Her Filipino mother would play her music and there was a combination of local sounds and her mother’s tastes. That music was then connected with Sandoval’s love of Pop and Hip-Hop. It was that revelation and choice of sounds that filtered into her mind and led her to record her own stuff. MySpace (remember that?!) was a portal used to get music out there; Sandoval went to YouTube and posted Lana Del Rey covers and, after that, things really started to take off. You can see all the little steps and how she has blossomed from the aspiring child and eager mind to someone who has utilised technology, music-sharing websites and current trends. Her first single, Chairs, was met with great success and got her a cover on Spotify’s Indie Pop Chillout playlist. It has been a long and busy road for the songwriter but I feel taking productive and sensible steps has played it part. To start, it was getting online and getting music to new hands. Now, as she has met French Braids, splitting time between L.A. and Toronto is the next big evolution. I feel every leap is important and scary but it pays off. I am not sure whether there will be a third one but, rather than quitting and feeling despondent; the songwriter has shown fortitude and made her way to a new plain. Success and longevity will come but, right now, a new single is out and it is exciting. I am looking forward to seeing where she goes and what we will get from her E.P. Clearly, Sandoval has a passion for music and a curiosity that she wants to exploit and spread around the world. I feel the songwriter will get those gig demands and play in a lot of different countries next year.


I have seen a shift in sounds between Sandoval’s earliest work and where she is now. It seems like she has moved from the Pop avenue and a certain L.A. sound to sprinkling in R&B and Soul. Influences are important when it comes to sound and direction and, in Sandoval’s case; one gets touches of artists like Mariah Carey and Toni Braxton. Rather than surrender her passions and give in; Sandoval brought in some new influences and pushed her music out. Hands has Pop flesh but there is something else working away. You get smoothness and silk; there is definite fire and something kicking. The production is more alive and richer; the vocal stronger and more nuanced. Lots of depths come out and I think, in order to move forward, Sandoval has looked back. Not only in terms of the age of her influences but when they came into her life. Often, looking to the future and taking from what is around you does not work. There are lots of great artists out there but many are compelled by what came before. In many ways, Hands is a fusion of the modern – production and lyrics – with the older and classic – vocals and music – and you have a great creation. I love artists who can change direction and do not feel the need to be commercial. Sandoval has embraced something insightful, fulsome and textured. I think she has found a new footing and is not going to abate anytime soon. Let’s hope she has plenty more material in the tank and keeps her sights set. I have a lot of faith in the songwriter and know she has much more to say. It can be difficult relocating and taking in new musical direction. Rather than let it bury and confuse her; Sandoval has assimilated it into her soul and come up with terrific music. I am determined to see where she heads and how her career progresses. I hope I have covered enough ground and provided background – where she came from and what inspired her.


You get some tease, beauty and trip in the opening moments of Hands. A wordless vocal from the heroine has a lullaby-like quality and it is dreamy. French Braids brings in some great electronics and production shine; you have a modern and cutting sound but one that never sounds too heavy and strict. There is intensity lurking beneath the surface but that is balanced with a sweetness and romance from Sandoval. The earliest lyrics – that find the heroine taking a chance in the wilderness – seems to be a signal and representation of where she is now. Rather than leaping into bad romance or a weird place; I feel there is a nod to her creative and geographical space. She has split her life between Canada and the U.S. and it seems to be a big step! It is scary and unknown but she wants to take the risk. I might be overreacting and looking down the wrong path but I got a clear sense Sandoval was talking about her new decision and working with French Braids. You get a real sense of trepidation but there is excitement and a sense of hope. As the lyrics progress, there are more romantic and physical connotations. Maybe there is a combination of passion and dreams or, maybe, the heroine is using her new movements and desires through the filter of love and physical passion. The heroine’s voice trembles and is breathless; you get a sense things are shaping up to be explosive and sweaty. Soon enough, my viewpoint changes from interpretations of musical desire to physical lust. Bodies are doing the speaking and she does not want conversation. Like Elvis Presley; she wants a little less conversation (and a bit more action). I can hear the intensity rise and something bubbling away.


Maybe it is a new relationship or something that has rekindled. In any case; it seems like there is an itch that needs to be scratched and an intense heat that is forming. Maybe I was quick to abandon the angle regarding songwriting and dreams. One can see Hands as a song about touch and intensity but, in many ways, you can feel a spiritual connection to music itself. French Braids keeps the production fairly simple as to allow, at first, the voice to build things up and create a mood. You get drum clicks and pointed electronic bubbles; there is a general movement but it does not crackle as you’d expect. That is not a bad thing at all. Rather than go for bold and reckless; the composition remains teasing and sexual. The vocal pitches itself between modern Pop and 1990s R&B and holds plenty of power. There is that call for loyalty and commitment. Hands are wandering and, in many ways, she wants to tenderness of faith and romance rather than the physicality of sex and something hollow. Perhaps this is a complex relationship but you can feel how much it means. Rather than rush in and make mistakes; the heroine wants to slow it a little and have her sweetheart stay. Her voice tempts and coos; it is tender and light but there is ample gravitas and lust that creates a rich and intriguing blend. New elements are brought in as the wordless coda returns. The beats sparkle and expand; you get more angles and edges that create a more fulsome and colourful sound. Little electronic rushes give the song a fresh fizz and definite warmth. From a rather reserved and somewhat restrained start; Hands starts to get a lot more mobile and sunny. It is a nice shift that pushes the song forward and builds images in the mind. Rather that build in new words and put too many lyrics in there; you get a return of the narrative – not wanting to talk and just wanting bodies and hands to do all the talk.


It never seems too explicit and full-on. There is romance and a purity that balances any suggestion of the shallow and quick. Whereas the verse had a set sound the first time around; there is a new flavour and direction this time around. Nuance and fresh revelation come through and you start to picture what is happening. I imagine two lovers who are new to one another but there is a recognisable connection and understanding. I keep thinking about music and dreams having physical manifestations. Sandoval is in a place where she needs grounding and the knowledge things will be okay. There is desire and ambition in her heart and a definite love. She does not want that taken away from her and knows she is taking a risk. It is a complicated song that can have distinct and different truths. Each listener will have their own viewpoint and interpretation. I was thinking about that mixture of love and music but, to be fair, we might be looking at a simple passion that is arriving at the right point in life – something needed but might not have legs. Sandoval will know what the origin is but, rather than give everything away, she allows some room for manoeuvre and personal relevance. By the end of the song, you are compelled to go back in and see if you missed anything the first time around. Hands has a very modern sound and slick production but you get classic edges. French Braids brings fresh ingredients to the mix but does not take away the true and trusted Danelle Sandoval sound. It is a great partnership that has resulted in a great song. It might be a new combination of talents but you can tell they work together. I hope there is more collaboration between them and they get to work on other songs. Hands is a great song that has summer vibes and energy but there are cooler and more teasing moments that are perfect for the colder months. I am curious to see where Sandoval heads and, in the coming years, how her music grows and builds. Even after a couple of songs, she has proven herself to be an exciting and interesting voice in modern music.


I wonder whether Danelle Sandoval will come to the U.K. and play here at some point. She will have Canadian and U.S. dates and, with an E.P. coming, there will be fresh love. Coverage is coming in for Hands and it seems many people are reacting. I am pleased and can tell the future is very bright for her. I love the song and can definitely feel a difference between what we have now and what came before. Progression and change is all part of the songwriter’s life. It is going to happen and can bring new energy to the bones. It seems Sandoval is primed and pumped for what comes next. Maybe international touring is a few years off but I would not be shocked if she got some big dates off of the back of her latest single. There are not many songwriters who would take risks like her and make such leaps. That is a testament to her desire and what she wants to achieve. Let’s follow her closely and watch a brilliant talent blossom. I shall end things in a bit but, before I do, distil why you need to get behind Sandoval. She has been around music all of her life and, from a young age, it seems to resonate. That love got into her heart and there was a decision to peruse music and bring it to the people. Working tirelessly and ambitiously for years; she worked her socks off and put covers into the world. From there, ears were primed and that led to original material. It won hearts but, at a point, that funk arrived. Now, Sandoval has progressed and made a decision to work with someone new. It seems she is in a great place and you can hear that defiance. It is the way she has handled obstacles and given her all to music that marks her out for success.


So many songwriters take an easy road and quit; others write material that is not pure to them and it can show. Other simply carry down a bad road and it can be quite hard to watch. If you want to remain in music and evolve; you need to think outside the box and take chances. Danelle Sandoval has come a long way and there is plenty more to come from her. Ensure you get your body behind Hands and investigate its every move. I am excited to see where she heads next and whether we might get to see her in the U.K. I can see a correlation between Sandoval’s live experience and how that feeds into her music. As more and more people get behind her music and spread the word; those demands will come in and she will be on the road. I know there are big plans and dreams in the mind of Sandoval; she wants to grow and continue to make music. I am thrilled she has come so far and created wonderful music. Throw some love behind the talented songwriter and keep abreast of everything she does. It is an exciting and promising period that will yield material, great reviews and gig requests. There are many songwriters who evolve and change direction but few have the same striking nature and sound as Sandoval. She is out there on her own and occupying special ground. She will continue to build and flourish; take in new sounds and, let’s hope, continue to work with French Braids. She may have found him by chance but, as they have created the wonderful Hands; I do hope that partnership continues for…


A long time to come.


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