Album Review: Kat Graham – Roxbury Drive

Kat Graham is an actress and musician, known in the acting world for her roles in 17 Again, The Roommate and as April O’Neil in the animated series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She is perhaps most well known however for her role as Bonnie Bennett in the CW supernatural series, The Vampire Diaries. Oh just while I remember, I also reviewed a single by one of her TVD alumni Malese Jow, which you can check out here. In addition to Kat’s acting career, as I mentioned above, she’s also a prominent musician, having released several albums and EP’s both under her name, and under a pseudonym, Toro Gato.

I appear to have reviewed her music out of order, starting with her 2017 release ‘Love Music Funk Magic’ which you can check out here. But I’ll correct that mistake today, by reviewing her debut album ‘Roxbury Drive’ which was released on September 25th 2015 courtesy of Sound Zoo Records.

‘1991’ opens big, high energy electronic percussion blending with Graham’s almost hypnotic vocals, this blends into some faster staccato vocal delivery, and Graham shows some superb range to her vocals, jumping from synth driven, to deeper, sultry sections with ease. I loved the energy of this track, you just get caught up in the up tempo, and slightly funky vibe of the whole thing. The vocal breakdown around the 2 minute mark was also really impressive, it’s like just when the song settles in, Graham decides to shake things up quite nicely. 

‘Off’ opens with a modulating electronic tone that is built upon by some rhythmic percussion that just blends well with her voice, which is just so fresh and powerful, you just get swept away by the vibrancy and low seductive tone of her vocals. This also has a really nice, swinging, energy to it, one that just gets inside you and urges you to move. Like the previous one, this had a vocal breakdown around the two minute mark, it’s more rap styled, and has a distinct vocal change which works well as part of the whole. 

‘Now’ opens with a heavy, bass driven, electronic percussion, and a softer tonal noise blended throughout. I was surprised by how unfiltered and raw these vocals were, this certainly isn’t some cookie cutter pop performance, instead it deals with more edgy subject matter. It elevates the track somewhat, turning what was already an engaging performance, into something even more worth listening to. I like how each track has a more high energy backdrop, but it’s not quite explosive yet, giving her room to grow as the album progresses, and yet it never quite mellows out, letting us know she’s coming at this with a certain level of intensity right off the bat. 

‘One’ does slow things down a touch though, lower and slower, with some sharp guitars and percussion leading us into an amazing vocal performance that just takes your breath away. I love the vocal harmonies, and the lyrical blending and overlap, the mix of style and beat that just really capture you. I especially loved the balance between the highs and lows, creating a track of musical counterpoint and good flow. I already knew I liked Graham’s voice, but this song truly hammers home that point, and proves that even this early in her music career, she’s a real talent. 

‘Run Away’ starts us off slower again, another guitar infused intro, with hints of mic distortion, it’s rougher and slower but it really works for the track. Much like the previous entry, ‘Run Away’ has some phenomenal vocals, her voice pure and melodic, but with depth and grit to it that make for a standout performance. It’s very close as there are plenty of great entries on this album, but I think this track takes the top spot for me. 

‘Baby’ opens with percussive beats, and a heavier bass guitar bringing us in, it’s got a nice confrontational vibe to it, that bleeds into Graham’s vocals, her voice that perfect blend of deep and soulful that when combined with the strong instrumental backing is like lightning in a bottle. I think this is probably a close second in terms of personal favourites on the album, this time it’s the balance between the vocals and instrumentals that really sell it. 

‘Secrets’ opens with a building percussive beat, that leads us into some of the most beautiful vocals on the entire album, her voice so clear and hauntingly deep, that you just forget what you’re doing and just listen, which is great as a listener, less so when you’re reviewing, but I make do. Much like the previous track, this is genuinely a good song, but what really makes it great is the perfect balance and cooperation between the vocals and instrumentals. In fact there was a superb guitar section towards the end that injected some heat and intensity into what has been a slower, more melodic song. 

‘World Is Mine’ changes things up nicely, a heavier, bass driven song, with the lower, raspier vocal delivery, it’s really good, shaking things up as we enter the final few tracks on the album. It has a really nice rhythm to it, building from a very simple melody, and vocals, to a more richly backed instrumental backing, and a variety of different vocal techniques that all blend together to make something really worth listening to. 

‘Star F*cker’ has a really nice vibe off the back, her vocals working in harmony with a really tight guitar riff, the pair feeding off one another. It has a harder edge to it, which is counterpointed by the fact that Graham tests her voice with some lighter, higher toned vocals that work well as part of the melody as a whole. 

‘Quit Ya’ has a fun little, funky bassline that acts as a board for Graham to explode out vocally, with her key deeper vocal style that is smoky and just captures you as you are listening. I’ve talked about it a few times now, but compositionally, especially for a debut album, these are incredibly well put together, and more than that, they try new things, even as we approach the end of the album, there’s an incredible amount going into each song, that add to the full thing. 

‘Low’ as the name says is a lower toned performance, deep percussive beats, and some more of Graham’s sensational deep voice, I like that even as a solo artist, she isn’t afraid to harmonise, counterpoint or otherwise bounce off herself to create an even richer vocal delivery. I think this was a very strong track to finish up on, the perfect balance of the best of all the tracks that have come before it. 
So that’s what I thought of Kat Graham’s album ‘Roxbury Drive’ and if you want to check that out then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it, make sure and support the artist by checking out her website and by following her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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