Christopher Giles – Finding My Way
Blue-collar, workingman’s rock is practically its own subgenre. It’s arguable who started the movement. Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty certainly punched their timecards before the large majority was tough enough to carry a five pound lunchbox into the factory break room. John Mellencamp has also been influential bringing his small town pride, meat n’ taters rock into the national arena circa 1976. Finding My Way the debut from Waterville, Maine’s Christopher Giles is a more pop-laced take on the style culling as much from Mellencamp as it does the mood lifting sing-a-longs of Bon Jovi and Daugherty. Christopher has got a country heart, a little rock n’ roll soul, the voice of a good pop singer and a nice blend of instrumentation from acoustic to electrified.
Kicking off with serene, stripped-down acoustic guitar, it doesn’t take long for lead-in track “I Wanna” to fall into sweeping, distorted chords. Verse breaks drop into a country twang with Giles’ voice quavering in hearty vibrato before rising up powerfully for the rocked-out choruses. Musically, there’s more depth here than you will find on any modern country radio station. Sweet but not sugary, “Wherever You Go,” avoids saccharine love song clichés by shuffling a path through infectious melody vocals, clean guitars and tasteful keyboards laid against a hook that has just enough impact in terms of its riffs and leads. You probably want to check your pulse if you don’t find yourself singing along. The electronic experimentation on “Let Me Know” thankfully doesn’t overpower what turns out to be a positively soaring pop song with Christopher’s crooning working up an emotional sweat as it crests mountainous terrain.
Smooth synth accompaniment floats atop fluffy cumulus clouds of acoustic guitar on the clear sky ballad, “Back To You.” What sets this song apart from a standard slow burner is the way he reaches his vocals heavenward and how the beefy tom-drum fills toughen up the mix just enough for it to resonate. “Lights In Stereo” is a heavier, riff-driven pop punk tune that puts its slick hook right up in front. At times the club-friendly embellishments distract a bit from the melodies, although the keyboards eventually even out flowing in tandem with the edgy 6-string grooves. Utilizing a reggae-tinged lick that The Specials could have written in their heyday, “Gotta Live Today” feels like it could swerve into a ska tune at any moment, but manages to hit a good time vibe without the presence of a brass section. Traditional, knife-edged power chords, economical guitar solos and slinkier vocal registers lends, “Need You To,” a classic rock radio heft while not losing the sly pop sensibilities that defines Giles’ special brand of swagger. “Beyond The Stars” and “Living Strong” follow suit and tingle the listener’s brainstem with a similar energetic, hard rock gravitas. Rounding the album out with all of the precision of a master carpenter, “Partners In Crime” and album finale “Start It Over” keep their musicality on a level that could easily lead to nationwide hit status for both songs.
If you are looking for pop music with some grit then Finding my Way should instantly win you over. In these days of bubblegum radio singles, it’s nice to find an accessible songwriter like Christopher Giles who isn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the electric guitar as well. The end result is eleven songs which valiantly stride between mainstream appeal and rock with enough potential to shake a stadium foundation or two. A few rough edges could use sharpening, and the keyboard component doesn’t seem fully realized thus far, but there are more than enough bright spots on this record to carry over onto a sophomore outing and build a career out of.