Gabriel black is shrouded in mystery. His social media features his drawings rather than pictures of himself, along with a phone number where fans can connect with him directly. For someone who keeps their identity at the background of artistry, black's music is exceptionally personal. Known for his gloomy realism and blending of alternative, rock, punk and hip-hop, his full debut EP, beautiful life is now available, and there's a lot to absorb.
The singles teasing the project drew a wide fanbase, along with the support of industry radars like Hype Machine and The Line of Best Fit. The Pennsylvania native curates an alternative take on emo that skips the dramatics and features stripped down production, cutting deep with jaw-droppingly dark lyrics. Black made lyric videos for every song on the EP, in addition to a fully produced animation for the title track. Beautiful life is raw, unapologetic and an overall remarkable debut for gabriel black.
The beautiful life video is just about as disturbing as an illustrated video using paper cutouts and colored pencils can get. Featuring a sadistic hooded figure following a young man through a party and then on a car chase, the visual demonstrates black's visionary talents as a writer, producer, director and artist. Grim as it may be, the video is incredibly creative and impossible not to watch the whole way through.
Black's EP begins with "pine trees," a sedated song featuring the line, "I'm locked in a box in my head, and the pine trees are taller than they've ever been." The doubled vocals enhance the depressive, heavy tone of the track and mirror the gravity of depression.
"Light my fire" was released as a single, and is nothing short of a sad-boy anthem. It touches on the darkness in black's other tracks, but has a wider reach given the upbeat and overall hopeful feel. Black's delivery of the chorus goes from sung to belted, churning the emotions of the listener from empathetic to inspired as the song plays out.
The next track, "hurricane" shifts to raw vocals and feels like black is speaking rather than singing. It's dripping in punk influence, and the vocals swing between abrasive and passionate. "Hurricane" deviates from the heavy autotune on "pine trees" and "beautiful life," breathing authentic and unfiltered life into the EP.
The central focus of the next song, "freedom," is the guitar break in the middle, emphasizing the thesis of the song as a call for release. Black outlines the struggle to accept himself, saying,
"I feel alone when I look in the mirror, wipe down the glass but it never gets clearer"
"Beautiful life" is the title track of the EP, and without listening to the lyrics one might find it to be a breezy declaration of how wonderful life can be. The sarcastically optimistic vibe is paired with dichotomous lyrics, with each cynical line ending in "when they see me they might cry, oh what a beautiful life."
The melody of "sad boy" is pure gold. Black's vocals shine as he laments over a heartbreak–a feeling to which many sad boys and girls can easily relate. It ends with a chorus that demands company, and you can almost hear a crowd singing with him as it comes to a close.
"Don't give up" is the final track on the EP, and ends it on a high note. Black extends a hand to everyone who has ever felt broken as he delivers the line "just don't give up." This song is a moving finale to the project, and provides a sense of closure to some of the earlier angsty songs. Black is a master of summarizing the thoughts we all have in dark times, and makes his fans feel a little less alone as they go through life.
Dive into beautiful life now, and cross your fingers for a gabriel black show near you soon.