Produced by: Yusif!
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Born in Seattle, Washington and raised in both Seattle and Kuwait, singer/songwriter Yusif! has experienced quite a bit of strife and sadness in his life. At the age of four, he found himself in Kuwait during The Gulf War. Evacuated with his mother back to America, Yusif! lived through the War on Terror. Over the years, Yusif! has watched he cultural differences between the West and East expand and the situations between the countries on both sides become more volatile. Overcoming his own demons, Yusif! realized he was in a unique position to "bring a Western perspective to the East and an Eastern perspective to the West. I believe we can achieve the end of war in our lifetimes. It will just take a higher consciousness for us to achieve that." Thus began his journey toward his debut self-titled release, Yusif!
According to the singer/songwriter, "Sometimes our most destructive moments and greatest tragedies end up becoming our triumphs. I've seen war, I've seen hurt, I've seen death. I'm here to tell the truth, own up to my own selfishness and self-destruction, help people find the love I have found, and try to spread a positive, uplifting message before I die. All I want to do is create joy and inspire people; so many people have done that for me. I am committed that some day, in my lifetime, we can end war, too. People can live peacefully together." In my opinion, the reasoning behind this album is well-meaning and heartfelt.
The ten track album runs the gamut on emotions, featuring songs based on some of the most influential moments of Yusif!'s life. The album opens with Third World Soldier, a shocking look at war and the desperation and despair it can bring about. This is an anti-war anthem with painful imagery designed to make the listener stop and think about the lives war ultimately shatters. The song is inspired by Yusif!'s own experiences during the Gulf War. The next song, Come On Down, discusses the singer's wild youth in which he tried to drown his depression in drugs, alcohol and sex. This rocking track is followed by some softer rock in Underdog, a track that at first sounds like a song about love and companionship, but turns into a song about an unrequited relationship.
In Getaway, the singer comes upon a distressed individual and offers to take that person away from all of the pain and suffering of being alone, experiencing all that life has to offer together. My Heart is Yours Forever is another love song with a beautiful pledge of love forever, despite whatever else may be going on around the two lovers. Reach Out is a hard rocking track in which the singer does some soul searching, trying to figure out how to get past his former addictions and the pain that pushed him towards them in the first place.
Sorry, I Can't is a sad song about an individual reluctant to leave his lover, but realizing that he can no longer continue their relationship. Take Your Love (And Go) could be considered a harder hitting version of this track, telling the tale of a volatile relationship brought to an end out of necessity. Cosmic Symphony is an upbeat song filled with hope and love and a yearning toward a better outlook for the world. Perhaps this song would have been the best one to end on as it was the most optimistic track on the album, but Yusif! decided on Only Fools Know Better which discusses heartbreak and soul searching in an effort to move on.
The music of Yusif! is definitely rock 'n' roll, heavily steeped in guitars and percussion. It's a simpler sound than many bands out there, but I tend to enjoy the simpler, less synthetic sounds found on this album. The lyrics on this debut album are incredibly thoughtful, heartfelt and thought-provoking. Anyone listening to this album who isn't touched by the lyrics and meaning behind at least one of the ten songs on this album really ought to do some soul searching themselves to discover how they have become so heartless. My only issue with this album is the singing which is too pitchy and often off-key, but I can overlook this issue thanks to the poignancy of the lyrics. The off-key delivery sometimes heightens the emotion of the words in the song, bringing off a greater sense of pain in some of the more intense tracks.
Yusif! was correct when he said, "Sometimes our most destructive moments and greatest tragedies end up becoming our triumphs." Writing and singing about the tragic moments in his past have brought about a triumph: a debut album that has piqued my interest and has me thinking that Yusif! is a lyricist to keep an eye. I believe even greater things can come from this singer/songwriter in the future.