Album Review: The Movement - Always With Me
by Gardy Stein
"If, when you close your eyes, you become one with everything under the sun, loved and undone, you will see there's a lasting light that guides us every minute, every second… I will never be alone, you are always with me." (Always With Me)
Lonesomeness is tough. Social isolation, so common in the modern western world and aggravated by lockdown, demonstrably leads to depression and health problems, so it should be acknowledged and dealt with. One way to do this is to surround yourself with people and spend quality time, but it's as wholesome to find a spiritual companion inside of you, whether you call it God or universal energy or whatever. That's probably what The Movement had in mind when they chose to call their new album Always With Me, after the first song on the release. The Movement, that's Josh Swain (lead vocals, percussion, guitar), Matt Goodwin (keys, producing, mixing, backings, trumpet), Jason Schmidt (bass) and Gary Jackson (drums, percussion), a band that's been around for almost 20 years, played on countless stages and released seven studio albums.
Number eight, released via Ineffable Record, is basically a feel-good affair, created for day cruises on the highway, lazy summer evenings on the rooftop and party nights, of course. While it has a clearly recognizable The Movement sound, it's also diversified enough to not let the fifteen tracks appear repetitive. Thus, after the bright opener Always With Me (No Worry being quite similar), you'll get a touch of Dubstep in Afraid, some Hip Hop/Trap/Pop fusion vibes in Beg Borrow & Steal as well as High Roller, and, probably most surprising, hardcore Jungle in Chainz (not in Jungle, ironically). Funny enough, I even heard Queen's I Want To Break Free for the split of a second in Worth Fighting For, but that might just be due to my recent re-discovery of that band.
Further variety is brought to the table with the exciting features. Slightly Stoopid joins Josh on the easy-breezy Sounds Of Summer (and if you listen keenly, you'll hear these sounds behind the riddim), while Iration steps in for the laid-back On & On, a sweet love testimonial. Speaking of sweet: Patricia Jetton, frontwoman of the band Hirie, contributes some darling lines to Actor, and the song puts pictures in my head of how nice the two singers would look on stage together. Much tougher (and faster) in riddim and vocal delivery, Love To Burn features Glasgow-based Soom T, and hell can this girl spit bars! A peculiar but very danceable mix of Gospel and Dancehall, Mountain is definitely one of my favorites of the release. None other than the former Gladiators singer Clinton Fearon throws his impressive vocals in, and the basic message is to never stop moving, I guess.
I could add a passage here talking about Josh's ingenious use of words and metaphors in the lyrics, but as I'm running out of space, let me just mention Elephant as an example. In Reggae contexts, it is more often the lion that is referred to for strength, so choosing the elephant is a nice diversion. Listening closely to the rest of the text is rewarding as well, as you'll find lines like "Let them come and tear me down, I got deep roots planted in this ground, they can try to dig me out, I am the forest, I am a cloud, I am the thunder, I'm the champion sound…" Some linguistic magic right here!
U Don't Know Me now… not only is it perfectly positioned as the final track (what with all the emotion that goes with that), it also deserves a closer look because it is soooo damn special. Somewhere between Guns n' Roses ballad, classical acoustic and lyrical poem, the sheer energy of the piece is incredible. There are so many layers to discover that you'll need several listening rounds to get them all, both on the textual, the vocal and the arrangement level. For one thing, the backings are just on point (chapeau to John Gray and Josh!), not only in the chorus but also in the verses. Secondly, the instruments are impeccably played, building up the exact right intensity at the exact right places, and the fiddle added by Derek Waldmann at the end doesn't hurt, either (I'll give a prize to whoever can tell me the name of the instrument playing a solo at 3:48). Finally, the lyrics… "You don't know me or what I can do" is a phrase everyone can relate to, as we've all been judged or disparaged by people who have no idea of what we've been through, why we react or behave a certain way. Thanks to Josh, we can now sing along at the top of our lungs to vent off whatever anger has accumulated over the years! I will also quote a snippet of the poem he wrote for the end of the song, as his voice is slightly distorted and hard to understand:
"Where can we turn when the stars are all hiding
Where can we turn when the storm takes the sun
Are we allowed to come bathe in the twilight
Hope and faith boundless, for we've just begun."
Wow, what a ride. Always With Me is an album that showcases the immense creativity out there, the variety of routes Reggae has taken in this world, and the beauty of that fact. Thank you, The Movement, for another great companion on this journey called life!
The Movement - Always With Me
DIGITAL RELEASE [Ineffable Records]
Release date: 07/29/2022
01. Always With Me
03. Beg Borrow
04. Sounds Of Summer feat. Slightly Stoopid
06. No Worry
07. Worth Fighting For
10. Mountain feat. Clinton Fearon
11. Actor feat. Hirie
12. High Roller
13. On & On feat. Iration
14. Love To Burn feat. Soom T
15. U Don't Know Me