Listen to Christopher Sluka for five seconds and one name jumps to mind: David Bowie.
It’s hard not to compare new music to legends we’ve adored in the past. But combine Sluka’s vocals with his masterful piano composition, meditative lyrics and fearless experimentation, and one can’t help but to make the connection while listening to his latest album Colorful Radiation.
The San Diego rocker has been compared to not only Bowie, but Imagine Dragons, The Beatles, Cold Play and Radiohead. What do these bands have in common? Their brazen attempt at composing different styles of music.
Sluka’s music certainly isn’t for the mainstream. His single “Number One” is certainly experimental to say the least. It starts with a ukulele, followed with a dissonant melody with experimental, electronic additions, ending with almost a heavy metal vibe. But it has over 100,000 views, so it’s obvious Sluka’s niche audience digs it.
Colorful Radiation employs that same varying degree of experimentation throughout. I certainly admire Sluka’s ability to incorporate an insane amount of instruments himself: Guitar, Piano, Drums, Bass, Violin, Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, Ukelele, Synthesizer (there’s even some whistling). But his biggest strength lies within his piano ability.
Much of the album features a number of piano-driven power ballads, my favorites including “A Mode Of Joy” and “Metaphor,” which closes out the album. Both are what I like to call contemplative, night-time drive music. It’s powerful work.
Growing up in Seattle and being raised around the world before performing in the same New York City club scene as Tears For Fears, INCS and Simple Minds, Sluka is nothing short of cultured, full of enough music-industry wisdom to fill an entire Sunset Strip I’m sure. Colorful Radiation, his eleventh record, appears to be yet another showcase of what the experienced rock vet has to offer.
On the other hand, I can’t give my complete highest praise. Some songs simply don’t go anywhere, bordering on irritating ambience. Some of the tracks still strike a powerful chord and resonate with you even after the notes stop playing. But others, in my opinion, lose your attention quickly.
If I had to guess, Sluka is a classically trained pianist. If he’s not, he does an amazing imitation of one. Even when I hear a repetitive bar in “Virga,” I can appreciate its simple yet beautiful structure. Thus proves to me you don’t always need 37 instruments in a track to make it substantial. When he leans heavily on his piano, his songs benefit greatly.
I appreciate Sluka’s skills as a musician. He’s also reportedly great to watch live. To me it all goes back to his Bowie-like sound. If you loved the English singer-songwriter’s work, you need to check out Colorful Radiation. No question.
Josh Helmuth is an editor for Crave and a longtime music lover whose first record was Eric Clapton. However, his first concert? That choice he will take to the grave.