Shannon McNeal is a folksy singer/songwriter based out of the Nashville area. Her earliest, available work is her Places EP, released in 2017, a project that was fun, heartfelt, and certainly worth a quick listen before diving into the new record, but her first true LP released this weekend to be followed by a couple exciting release shows.
The record itself is impressive, particularly in its production, which simply must be mentioned first, considering the relatively small budget for the album. What WFBD’s production lacks in polish, it more than reimburses in creative, thoughtful decisions on everything from stereo-imagery to vocal mixing. It’s very nearly impossible to imagine that this album was recorded completely by students, but Adam Bock and Janaye Roberson seriously put in the effort to give this album quite an advantage from the beginning. Tracks like “Cash You In,” and “Morning Light” showcase this well.
Shannon’s voice is also quite a pleasure throughout. Her lower registered tone is rich and above all unique in the genre. She rarely reaches for the distracting higher notes that often plague an other wise wonderfully simple performance. Her performance on “Blue,” for example, is dynamic and emotional, while the record’s lead single and opener, “Share My Reality,” is up tempo and features Shannon’s lead as a quirky highlight.
The record features some excellent chord progressions on almost every song. She sprinkles sevenths and open chords well, and this is able to string a common tonal theme through the project as a whole.
McNeal’s lyricism is also quite impressive. Tracks like “Traded in Your Love,” and “Me With You,” tell cohesive stories while the closer, and my favorite track “Ghost Town,” and others like it play on consistent themes throughout.
Certainly the best tool in Shannon’s box, however, is her ability to write one ear-worm vocal melody after another. “Boxes,” “Forever Valentine,” and “Morning Light,” stand out for this reason, with choruses that will leave listeners humming for days to come. Its not only choruses, though. The bridge on “Another,” is incredibly singable. Even a track like “Google,” which contains some of the strangest lyrics on the project, is normalized by perfectly written chorus.
The album isn’t perfect. The relatively narrow instrumental pallet leads to rare but noticeable pacing issues and the tight rhyme schemes have a tendency to sound a bit jingly. The album is so full of heart, however, that these slight issues can be easily ignored.
Ultimately, McNeal’s thoughtful writing, unique melodies, and talented vocal work, wielded well by Bock and Roberson’s production approach, create a debut LP that punches well above it’s weight. An excellent start to what will likely be an exciting discography.
HEAR THE ALBUM: https://open.spotify.com/album/3LQCdiOHX5yAgCe1ZnNnRr