Album Review: Heliophile ‘Downhill From Here’

Hphile

Last year I wrote a review about a new synth-pop act that I was absolutely over-the-moon for. This wonderful artist was Gijs van Ouwerkerk, better known as Heliophile. I expressed my sheer delight at how solid and catchy his music was, and that it was a, “….certifiable hit.” However, at this time, I would like to rectify an egregious mistake I made in that review.

I awarded Heliophile’s Nebula EP four out of a possible five stars. My reasoning at the time was that it was difficult to justify awarding a full five stars for only four tracks-worth of music, despite how first-rate it was. Especially when so many other artists were releasing full-length albums. So because of the short EP format, I felt it was only fair to award a maximum of four stars.

How wrong I was!

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, and I should have awarded Gijs’ debut effort the full FIVE stars that it so richly deserved. Of the many things I can readily be accused of, being proud, is not one of them. Therefore, I am more than willing to swallow my pride and admit fault in my judgment in awarding Nebula four stars.

With full clarity of conscience, I am REVERSING my original critique, and am proud to announce with absolute confidence (and a strong dash of humility) that Nebula, is, indeed, a FIVE star album, and is fully deserving of such praise.

Sincerest apologies to Heliophile for my rather flawed logic in my original review.

So how did I arrive at this realisation of my need to change my own published work?

Quite simple, really. I listened to Heliophile’s brand-new album, which is even MORE amazing than its predecessor, and I realised just how special this particular artist is. Make no mistake about it, people…… Heliophile is true synth-pop royalty, and I don’t make that declaration lightly.

In the space of one year, Mr. van Ouwerkerk has delivered a piece of work that exceeds the quality of not only his own previous work, but also the work of many of his peers. In short, Heliophile’s latest release, Downhill From Here, is nothing short of a modern electronic-pop masterpiece.

Downhill From Here is a bona-fide FIVE-STAR effort, let’s get that settled upfront! If my rating system went to ten, it would exceed even that. In fact, let me put it this way…… as a fan and avid listener of synth-pop, Downhill From Here is the sort of album I would’ve worn out by now if it had been released on cassette or vinyl. It NEVER leaves my iPod or my car! Of all the new synth-pop releases thus far in 2014, despite the fact it’s only been in release for roughly two months as of the publication of this review, I have given it more listens than any other artist or release on my vast playlist.

I listen to it……. Every. Single. DAY!

As a professional musician and record producer, Downhill From Here is the sort of album that I aspire to make in my professional life. Some day I hope to be able to throw together something even half as good as this! It’s damn-near PERFECT! The lyrics are deep and thoughtful.

Like his first release, Gijs tells stories very vividly through his lyrics, which are straight-to-the-point. The compositional arrangements are top-flight. The synths are all as clear and precise as I’ve ever heard on any recording in my life. The bass shakes and pierces me to the core. The lead synths rip through my speakers with glorious, reckless abandon! And of course, the mixing and mastering only bring it all together in a truly sensational fashion.

From a professional standpoint, Downhill From Here might as well be the standard by which darker, indie synth-pop should be held up against.

Oh yes…… it’s THAT good, folks.

A little bit about the songs…….. well, this time around we get five songs, instead of the four that Nebula offered. But each of these five tunes is EPIC! That being said, here’s a brief summary of my two favourite tracks:

‘Econocide’: The EP’s lead-off track and single, tells the cautionary tale of a fictional character involved in the massive banking crisis from a few years ago. It paints the picture of an individual motivated by greed, power, and personal gain, and how it all eventually catches up to him. Simply brilliant!

So Far to Fall: A nice, mid-tempo ballad, featuring a catchy, hook-laden chorus. The lyrics tell of a painful struggle to find meaning while being up against personal loss and/or failure. So many cool vocal layers going on here!

To wrap it all up……….. Heliophile has delivered that all-important sophomore release, and not only equalled the beauty of his debut, but also exceeded it in every possible way. This artist is here to stay. No question about it. It was a sincere honour for me to review his debut release, and it’s an even greater honour to share my review of his latest with the world.

Downhill From Here is one for the ages, folks. If you’re down to your last few bucks before payday, and you have to choose between buying a good meal, or buying this EP, I would forego the meal and BUY THIS EP! It will nourish your ears and your soul. In the way that only the best music, the truly timeless music of our world can do.

Therefore, it is in that spirit that I am pleased to award Downhill From Here with the highest of praise I can offer….. a whopping, and well-deserved FIVE out of FIVE stars!

This album belongs in your library. Do whatever you can, to make that happen!

You can purchase Downhill From Here via Bandcamp and iTunes.

 

SUPPORT INDIE ARTISTS!!!

 

Jimm Kjelgaard, Sr. – July 2014

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