Hailing from Toronto, Ontario is Chris LaRocca, an electronic pop artist with a synthy, laid back, R&B sound. The Canadian artist’s story is an interesting one, moving from backgrounds in punk-rock before moving into his current pop influenced sound, funding his project through tutoring, working at retirement communities, and working as in-home care for an elderly woman to be able to continue to produce music as he attempted to start his music career. You can see this plethora of life experience and hard work through his acknowledgments of not having very much at points, and struggling with that fact.
You can also see this background in live instrumentation through his continued use of live synths and drum machines to create his sound instead of using computer technology. This utilization of live instrumentation in beat and music creation shows an ability to compose, natural sounding reverb, and tonal ornamentations that greatly suit his falsetto R&B singing. The production of Saudade is clean, big, and bass heavy, reminiscent of Drake's style of singing over hip-hop/R&B beats that certainly would have influenced Chris rising up in the city of Toronto's pop scene. Ideas like this can be seen in his songs such as "Dice Out" and “Made You Cry.”
However, there is more than electronic pop, R&B, and hip-hop throughout Saudade. For example, "yardsale" and "yardsale reprise" bring many elements of experimental music through string ornamentations, gospel, and post-2000 neo-soul. From the beginning lines of "yardsale," you can feel the fear of loss and broken feeling that he has from his unnamed lover when Chris sings, “Yea I feel a little worthless baby, when my sh*t’s out front on your lawn, and no I’m not afraid to put the torch down, but I’m afraid to pass it on” shows a fear from a love that has burned out and destroyed him, which he expresses through describing their love as being put out in the ashtray, with her putting him out. This is a very literal recognizable description to listeners, and sets off the whole project with the feeling of lament, a feeling of destruction and brokenness from a love that burned too hot like the last of a cigarette in the ashtray, Chris’s instantly recognizable metaphor for that burnout.
Take a listen to “yardsale” here:
The most complete and versatile song on the EP is "Heated Up,” which builds on the neo-soul aspects of the EP with a somber feeling string instrument sample to start, dual interplay between Chris' falsetto singing, and the higher pitched chorus sample. His utilizations of crescendos and breakdowns, understated and gentle, serve the song immensely for the "love lost" ballad type of song that can be seen throughout the EP. “Heated Up” is a more laid back tune which lets the listener feel the longing, exasperation, lack of possessions, lack of time, and acknowledgment of a love that drove him crazy. There are feelings of the soul-pop and hip-hop utilized by Kanye West and Chance the Rapper in Chance's album Coloring Book. Track three, "salt," further builds on this feeling of loss, anger, and wish that things could be done differently, albeit with more drive behind the beat and less laid back than "Heated Up.”
The term saudade is an undefined word for the feelings of nostalgia and melancholy for a moment that never actually occurred. Chris’ project, Saudade, oozes this melancholy, longing, feeling of loss, and places huge emphasis on the emotional nostalgic side of the sound through synth layering, light guitar sampling, and gospel background singing, while bringing modern tastes through electronic pop, hip-hop, and neo-soul. Though only 20 minutes long, Saudade is a great snapshot into a time and place for an artist clearly in touch with his experiences and how they brought him today, and leaves the listener wanting for more.
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