Reeya Banerjee’s eight track collection The Way Up is a pivotal point for the Washington D.C. born, San Francisco-raised artist. Her journey began at the age of seven in a household prizing creativity; both her parents have extensive classical music training. She initially began with learning the piano during a period when she lived in the Chicago area before joining and touring with a local children’s choir. She pursued musical theatre during her middle and high school years and later attended Vassar College.
The influence of The Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney, loomed over her musical interests. She studied bass guitar at Beacon, New York’s Beacon Music Factory and began performing regularly in public for the first time. Those aforementioned influences, along with others from the 1960’s and 70’s, are rife throughout The Way Up, but she reshapes them with undeniable personal qualities many listeners will enjoy.
“The Magic Word” is a barnburner of an opener. Her chief collaborator on the project, songwriter and lyricist Luke Folger, proves to be a more than adequate musical partner. The rough-hewn guitar texture present throughout the song and its hard-charging nature never subverts its commerciality, however. Banerjee convincingly belts out the song’s strong vocal melody and the words carry ample bite. She’s released a video for the song, as well, though it suffers from budget limitations that may bother some viewers. It has a strong concept, however, and holds your attention.
She abandons the opener’s dissonant alternative rock packaging for the second song “Through the Haze”. It pursues a much clearer pop approach instead though consistent elements remain prominent. Banerjee and Folger continue the album’s reliance on a meaty bottom for the songs and they provide a hard-hitting ballast. Banerjee’s singing remains as impassioned as before. She intends for the title song to be among the album’s marquee numbers and its sturdy construction makes that possible.
Folger bookends the cut with an intro and outro very different from the bulk of its arrangement. The unusual tempo of those passages provides a stark contrast with the much more conventional verses and chorus. Banerjee, once again, foregoes the opener’s guitar-driven histrionics in favor of a sound with broader appeal. A consistent slant to the collection emerges with this song. “Don’t Look Down” continues slanting in that direction but sounds a little tougher. Banerjee’s singing, however, is too mannered for the knife-edge funk guitar. The snap in the percussion compensates for this, to a point, but Banerjee needed to cut loose more.
The finale “Bright Lights” kicks listener’s heads in with a blast of distorted guitar before launching in earnest. It has churning rhythms creates a groove any rock fan will appreciate without ever bludgeoning listeners. Folger and Banerjee aren’t interested in bash you over the head rock music and The Way Up is a better experience for it, but it’s the total effect that’s more important. Outside the box arrangements, a bevy of pop influences, and intelligent lyrics are among the five-star elements distinguishing The Way Up from the pack.