It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Johnny Rain. I had never heard of him before hearing his incredible album “Lullaby of a Machine” in March. If you haven’t heard his incredible and unique sound, check out his song “BL∆CKY∆YO“. Two days ago Johnny Rain released “Villain“, an eleven track album filled with more stellar music. You can download the entire album for free here and while that’s loading, you can start listening to the two songs I was most enamored of upon first listen.
“Isis” opens with an homage to Nancy Sinatra’s classic “Bang Bang”. Her words are framed only by Johnny Rain’s powerful and beautiful vocals, followed by an epic and vast soundscape of deliberate electric guitar chords, a simple and stark synth line, and drums that build suspense and demand attention. This epic background only sets the stage for Johnny Rain’s powerful vocals. Rain’s vocals are melodic and beautiful, often luxuriating in vocal harmonies. Again I am reminded of the Weeknd’s dark and grand songs. While I would file this somewhere between alternative and R&B/soul, Rain calls labels the entire album “avant-electro”. I can see where that comes from as the parts of this song that are most electronic, that simple synth line of three slowly repeating notes, is the same progression used in the climax of the film “Attack the Block”. This is not really a sample so much as another musical nod to a great movie and an amazing soundtrack made by Basement Jaxx and Steven Price. This is interacting with music on a whole new level. Recreating parts to use as a background while adding instruments and vocals over it to make something entirely original. The song ends with a monologue from “The Notebook” backed only by beautiful vocal harmonizing. I wonder how many references I’ve missed. Johnny Rain is truly making high art on many levels.
I’m sharing “Americana Way” not just because it’s a great song, but to show a more alternative rock sound to Johnny Rain. This song relies more on guitar and drums than “Isis” and it is still an amazing song. There are still background synths and orchestral strings to give the song that full bodied sound that I’ve come to associate with Rain, but they are less prominent than in “Isis”. The song opens with strings in an introduction that feels more like a transition than a inseparable part of the song, and when the strings end, the drums, keyboard, bass, guitar and vocals take over. Once again, Rain’s powerful vocals steal the show. This song is happier than many of his other songs, with lyrics about leaving to happier, sunnier places. But behind every suggestion of a happy getaway is the darkness that he wants to run away from. This song seems happier but it is shadowed, haunted. It’s a gorgeous song. Enjoy it and make sure to check out the rest of the album.