If good karma exists then Manchurian gospel-pop-blues singer-songwriter Kristyna Myles is rightfully reaping it’s philanthropic rewards. Becoming an ambassador for homeless youth charity Centre Point and a supporter of relief Tearfund paints her as a humanitarian and contrasted with the struggles she had for three years surrounding the release of her debut and fighting to regulate her copyright, she is surprisingly very forgiving.
The reward for her commendable spirit was belief from her followers and a successful crowd-funding campaign on direct-to-fan music platform PledgeMusic, which funded her second album Paint A Brighter Day. Like the modern-day musician, Myles has a great relationship with her devotees, based on modesty, lack of ego, open-mindedness and a transparent showbiz barrier which is exemplified by her socially-friendly incentives to convince pledges including: a Skype chat, a personal song, private house gig, studio tour and singing tuition.
With her new album, she is seemingly concocting more good karma and empathy for her patrons by giving them a collection of optimistic songs that as Myles puts it, “makes you look at life with a glass full mentality“. Her #paintabrighterchallenge and rainbow album cover also commit to this refreshingly gleeful mission, especially with the current trend of apocalyptic songwriting.
This is good considering that there was some stereotypical negativity towards relationships on her first and humble album Pinch Me Quick, which although honest and personal, tie-toed around lyrical mediocrity including in the otherwise instrumentally beautiful “Sorrow, You’ve Changed (Writings On The Wall)”, “Move On”, “Betrayal”, “I’m Not Going Back” and “Uninvited”. Yet there was a hint of happiness and gratitude on “Wouldn’t Change A Thing” and “Stay With Me”.
On her new album, “Autumn” is an appropriate starting point for anti-melancholia, as Myles describes her infatuation for the season in poetic fashion. Her enthusiastic depictions are imaginative: “It’s like I’m in a shower with Earth’s confetti“, biblical: “The way you were created, sculptured and painted by the master’s hand, so he’s speaking through your wonders by his command“, and motivationally spiritual: “I feel empowered…something about you makes my spirit move“.
Her lyrical prowess and well-crafted insights have improved greatly from her debut which suffered from occasional lazy rhymes: “think back, win your track, I got your back” (“Set Back”), “she is looking for security, nothing but the best you see” (“Someone”) and “I want to go but you don’t care for my sorrow” (“Sorrow”) are examples.
Although, “Garment Of Shame” from the new release contains the sickly lyric: “Don’t be so quick to shoot me down, see I was lost but now I’m found“, “Drop Me A Line” offers an approachable helping hand, “Halfway” is euphoric about love, “It’s Not About You” offers advice, whilst “I Guess I’ll Never Know” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” contain stories that start off pessimistic but maintain a sense of hope that fits this album’s belief system.
Myles also uses the album as an expressive diary to chapter life lessons, her continued theme of “change” (which dominates Pinch Me Quick) and her transition from a frustrated record label victim to having freedom with her own agency Take Note Recordings, which in turn has given her a stronger grasp of artistic concepts. In intro “New Page“, she uses the default phrase in wedding ceremonies, “the power invested in me today…” as a metaphor for a new beginning and is followed by “I turn a new leaf, a new page. Only I have the power to do what I say, it’s my life“. Although it’s the weakest song musically on the album, the same message is conveyed on the self-reflective “Heaven Knows”: “Every little step I’ve made has brought me this far. It hasn’t been easy… Keep looking, keep trying, hoping and playing“.
The name itself is a figure of speech but Kristyna Myles’s music has always had religious connotations from the fact she has performed in churches and was nominated for ‘Best Gospel Album’ at the MOBO awards. The gospel element to her music is partly due to the delightful backing vocal harmonies that exist in both LPs that give it a 1990s soul feel and add to the joyful sophistication. “Heaven Knows” sounds like a hymn from the Sister Act movies, sung by the contemporary gospel duo Mary Mary. The organ (whether it’s electric or omnichord) is a consistent instrument that also responsible for this sound, whilst a jazz keyboard is a constant ode to Stevie Wonder.
A rare negative track in a candy store of rainbows is “I’m Getting Rid Of This“, although it exemplifies her powerful womanhood and is musically impressive for its hook of a keyboard that lies between Wonder and 8-bit video-games. It’s music video is as spontaneously cabaret as Maia Hirasawa’s “If I Found This Boy” and also contains a similar band parade arrangement feeling to the music.
The most impressive achievement is how Myles excels extraordinarily at making each track more memorable whilst also managing to add longer jams and jazzy solos, both feats weren’t achieved on the debut. “Heavy On My Soul” has the fast acoustic confidence and vocal delivery of KT Tunstall (look out for the “woooohs”) and alludes to country blues before a bearded guitar get its time on the spotlight. “Autumn” gives the brass room to breathe and lively “A Change Is Gonna Come” has a bridge of nostalgic boogie-woogie proportions and could be performed at a Dolly Parton-look-a-like’s rodeo.
Although the celebratory nature makes it also likely that it won’t be too long before Myles appears on Jools Holland’s New Years Eve Party. It’s eclectic and hovers around jazz-pop and blues as well as the folk genre on “Halfway”, which is like an acoustic version of Hill Street Blues from Solsbury-Hill era Peter Gabriel and utilizes slices of electric guitar on the cleverly composed “I Guess I’ll Never Know“.
An influential figure for young female musicians not only for her effortless and technically brilliant vocals, but through her mentality of doing things her own way. A shining example of the new revolution of artists that rebel against the greedy systems. The signatures on her album covers prove that she is proud of her work and she should be, as her feel-good has kept her promise of painting us a brighter day. Both in the short and long term. Kristyna Myles’ Paint A Brighter Day is out now on Take Note Recordings, purchase it here.
Words by Matt Hobbs