You can buy the album here starting June 24.
Judging by the bountiful acknowledgements expressed in the liner notes to Bloom, her second full-length recording, Madison Malone would be the last one to claim that she is a self-made performer, songwriter and recording artist. But she has forged her way through the chatter, remaining fiercely true to her principles while creating dreamily optimistic tomes drenched in hues of sound that feel like the colors of Spring. So Bloom is in apt title for her second album, one that sees her opening up in nearly every aspect of her music and her life.
Malone is steady as she traverses her path and that was what her last album, Luminal, reflected; choices between head and heart, confidence and doubt, growth and stagnation. You can almost feel her changing on Bloom, building on her strengths, taking a few more chances, fearlessly progressing and reflecting nearly pure light, the darkness of the material world be damned.
Malone will be relocating to Los Angeles in August so this is a swan song of sorts and the closing of a significant chapter of her life as another opens up. It’s clear that she has survivor skills and a knack for planning and following through. She’s laid the foundation for the next chapter which is already drafted and ready for fleshing out. Like her music, her game plan is not selfish, but giving. She will no doubt help and encourage many others by building bridges between our two cities and her nurturing nature will surely result in other successes for those who orbit around her. Expect to find her music in film, television and maybe even providing the soundtrack to your next visit to Disneyland, another one of her career objectives.
Malone’s ability to bottle the wonderment of youth is neither escape nor evasion. Her reality seems to reflect life as it should be, as it was meant to be, allowing her the space to create and color in the blandness of the world. Opening track “Not Enough” reflects the transitions and even in its gentleness is a declaration of determination. “I’ll keep searching, never fading / I’ll keep wondering, wondering / It’s not enough, not enough / Not enough walls to stop me / Not enough floors to knock me / Not enough grounds to hold me down.” The accompaniment is more muscular on Bloom, her piano and breathy vocals fleshed out in full-band arrangements with expert production by Paradyme Productions’ Jake Johnson. Brady Bachman’s cello and the string arrangements provided by Johnson elevate “Not Enough” to hymn-like stature.
“Breathing” is a duet with Gabe Burdulis with whom she shares many similarities. Burdulis adds acoustic and electric guitars as well as additional vocals, which blend seamlessly on this meticulously crafted pop power ballad. “You’re breathing too hard / Slow it down / Listen to me / Be quiet now” Malone sings in the opening verse. Kudos to whoever had the idea to drop the rhythm to half-time as the phrase “slow it down” is sung.
Shades of Joni Mitchell surface on “Surround Me,” Malone’s plaintive vocal accompanied only by her acoustic guitar.
Supporting musicians shine on Bloom as well. Corey Saffold’s bass rises to the occasion on “I’m Back,” a jazzy pop love song that establishes a rock-solid feel, allowing Malone to let her vocal inflections fly. Johnson’s ukulele is also a nice touch on this one. Drummer Nathan Russell, who now runs a teaching studio in Malone’s hometown of Portage, has quite an impressive resume. His playing is sublime throughout and Johnson succeeds in producing an exquisite drum mix that allows all of his subtle flourishes to be heard. Listen to him dance around the beat on “I’m Back,” while his cymbal work syncopates. This potent rhythm section teams up again on “Honesty,” their deep R&B groove elevating the track beyond mere pop confessionalism. Brady Bachman’s multitracked cello lines grace “Falling,” a track with special significance for Malone. Bachman’s playing is central to many of the songs on Bloom and he frequently performs with Malone as a duo. This is particularly true on “Give,” a beautiful ballad that pleads for reprieve from the distractions of virtual realities: “I know we are out there somewhere / Our old selves / And we are hiding / Growing something beautiful / Something wonderful.” Bachman adds mighty gravitas to “Deceptions,” a track that finds Malone exploring the darker angles of relationships.
Malone will not be a stranger to Madison. She plans frequent returns for performance and collaborations. One of these days, when she makes a return, it will be as a fully-fleshed artist capable of extraordinary expression. One gets the feeling when listening to Malone that there is pressure building below the surface that lies in waiting, preparing to erupt.