Flavourtown - 'Painting Pictures (feat. Ashton Livesay)
Reviewed by Vai Thomas
The Online Oxford Dictionary defines the term ‘eclectic’ as "not following one style or set of ideas but choosing from or using a wide variety." And my mind immediately turns to the likes of Vincent van Gogh. Now, coming to the realm of music, the practitioner can choose "not follow one style…but use from a wide variety", but the real test is whether or not it connects with the listener. So, how does one do so while adopting an approach that is often termed outside the box? By adopting an intelligent stance with an unorthodox touch – be it by fusing genres or by tweaking normal song structure – but whose overall purpose should be immediately relatable to the listener. And this is very much the delightful case with North Dakota-based pop duo Flavourtown’s newest, titled "Painting Pictures," featuring the vocals of Ashton Livesay.
Written in the key of F Major, Flavourtown – comprised of Lavender Schaffer and Orion – has crafted a number that is sonically unique while still striking a chord with captivating whimsicality that is at once endearing and gratifying. They manage to nail that by being purposefully out-of-the-box in terms of arrangement and song structure. "Painting Pictures" offers a contemplative perspective on the world during challenging times, navigating a sense of melancholy but ultimately embracing optimism. It explores the quest for hope even in seemingly hopeless situations, sometimes finding it where it doesn't naturally exist or creating it from within.
Crafted in the realms of R&B and melodic hip-hop, with ambient pop elements in the mix, and the introductory seventh chords by the piano, paint an accurate indication of the journey the listener is about to undertake as Livesay’s dreamy vocals spearhead the song with a delightful freshness that contains just the right amount of whim as befitting the overall lyrical theme. Reverb-infused synth sounds hold it down with percussion and acoustic guitar in tow. Adding purpose to this fusion of genres, lyric after lyric, the group offers a gamut of emotions while maintaining that all-important nonchalant swagger. With lyrics ranging from "All I’ve got are memories, spent it on accessories, 'cause you’re the only one I wanna see" to "Why can’t I get myself up, gotta clean my act up," every theme is superbly punctuated at the proper junctures by Livesay’s outstanding vocal performance. The number, staying true to its purpose and theme, chooses not to adapt the traditional strophic song structure, instead superbly amalgamating its lyrical sub-themes with an eclectic charm that not only works wonders, but is richly rewarded at the very end by its enthrallingly and dreamy merging of vocals (the merging of the "Come Here" and "Be The One. The vocal elements render a pop-gospel flavor to a number already high on dynamic and emotional range round off this superbly crafted work.
At a duration of three minutes and forty-three seconds, "Painting Pictures" is a winner in its own right, with a uniquely sonic sound that is connects listeners from start to finish and a profound example of how to tweak the basic rules of songwriting to consummate justice to the lyrical theme.
About Flavourtown North Dakota's premiere musical export, Flavourtown is the brain child of renown air breather Lavender Schaffer and fellow nature enjoyer Orion. Together, the eclectic pop duo crafts tunes of all kinds from the depths of their low income housing.