Album Review: Juan Zelada

high ceilings and collarbones (decca)

During his early teens, Madrid native, Juan Zelada, spent a few years perfecting his English in a small town outside of Croydon. The flourishing singer/songwriter later returned to England after earning a music scholarship at the Liverpool Institute Of Performing Arts, where he met and studied with Paul McCartney.

The debut full-length album from Juan has already received high praise from the media and critics alike, not to mention his current single, The Blues Remain being selected for the iTunes Free Single Of The Week. Another great acknowledgement for the upcoming singer was to be A-Listed on Radio Two back in June, for his debut single Breakfast In Spitalfields, which was also the station's Record Of The Week for five weeks. An accomplishment not to be sniffed at in my opinion!

High Ceilings & Collarbones was entirely self-penned by Zelada and recorded at some of the most prestigious studios, including Metropolis, Abbey Road and Rockfield Studios in Wales. The record was co-produced by Matt Lawrence, the ex-chief engineer of Metropolis Studios (Ellie Goulding, James Morrison) and mixed by Danton Supple, best known for his work with Coldplay. The result of this collaboration is a slick and shiny production with tracks harking back to a childhood spent listening to his parents' record collection. Juan has cited being hugely influenced by "a lot of Americana music from the Sixties and Seventies", particularly the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Simon, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Billy Joel.

Some have found the act of pigeon-holing Juan a little difficult due to the singer's many musical guises. Names like Paolo Nutini, Ben Folds Five and Jamie Cullum have often been attributed to the singer, but I think these are some of Juan's biggest appeals - the familiarity, versatility and musical comfort that pours out of his songs. High Ceilings.. is essentially a pop record with delicious hints of Blues (Don't You Hold Me Down), Reggae (Barman) and Classic 70's Rock (Baby Be Mine). The track Don't You Hold Me Down is a brilliant, toe-tapping example of his passion for blues, and with piano comping, slides and glissando and a brass section thrown in, it has a Jools Holland good-time vibe about it. (Listen below to a live version)

The aching and longing, The Blues Remain hints at the soulful song-craft of Ray LaMontagne and Norah Jones with perfectly embellished Piano riffs, saxophone runs, drone-like organs and electric guitars tell the story of a gloom-filled, cloudy day with the hook, Ain't got no sunshine, ain't got no rain. Ain't got a worry in the world, but the blues remain. Whereas Breakfast In Spitalfields is a more uplifting, spritely affair with gentle electric guitar licks and a soulful vocal lying delicately on top.

But as well as the growing awareness of his image as an artist, Juan’s song writing ability has been in high demand which has led to co-writes with the likes of The Noisettes and Mumford And Sons collaborator, Josh Weller, new Duran Duran guitarist Dom Brown and pop writers Andy Murray and Lee Mac.

From listening to this album, it's clear that Juan is an extremely talented and versatile artist. However, I feel the album may take time to get under the public's skin. Give it some time, though, and combined with exhilarating live shows and a reputation for high-class song-writing, Juan could soon be the one everyone is talking about.

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