Kevin Borland is a musician from New Jersey, who was the lead guitarist and primary songwriter for the punk band “Weekends With Dan” in the mid-2000s. A graduate of M.I.T. with a B.S. Degree in Physics, as well as being a practicing attorney, Kevin separated from his wife in 2014 and decided to write and record his debut solo album. The current “So If” EP, is his third release, prior to his upcoming full-length solo album in May, to be titled “Harbor City Meltdown”.
The review for “So If” is a difficult one to write, because I still haven’t been able to wrap up all my thoughts about this amazing effort. I would imagine that if Kevin Borland could be knocked for something on his albums, it is that he seems to keep changing his sound. Personally, I’m not sure how it can be negative to continually grow and not dwell in one particular place. But it was just a thought that crossed my mind. Somehow, to me, it is all these different Borland sounds coming together perfectly, which makes it absolutely jaw-dropping to hear so much quantity and quality at the same time. An EP with peaks as high as that on “So If” , only hits a few times in any given time period. And Borland is right where he needs to be artistically; commercially underrated, yet without doubt, a top notch songwriter at the top of his game.
The opening song “So If,” documents Borland’s move to Florida and the shaky relationship he had with his wife even 10 years before they were separated. The trick isn’t writing lyrics like those found on this track. The trick is pulling them off convincingly. And damn if Kevin Borland isn’t just earnest enough to do it. Borland has a way of putting a twist on simple lyrics to give songs a deeper meaning that you can keep coming back to and finding new things. The way he describes feelings and emotions that you have been through too, but haven’t verbalized or even put into thought is simply incredible. Even when he leaves the verses lyric-less as on “Happy B-B-Birthday” or when asking his 11-year-old stepson for help writing lyrics on “Love Me Baby”, Borland ends up saying something…out of nothing!
But the songs keep coming, easy as a porch swing on “So If,” with lots of minor chords, strummed guitars, as well as electrifying riffs and solos. “Greedy Pig” is a guitar lover’s paradise and the tone Borland squeezes out of his rebuilt and customized 1989 Dean Z Playmate, on this track, as well as on my favorite song, “Broken Mind”, is mind-boggling to say the least. Some of the sounds and effects Borland creates on “Broken Mind” remind of the work my ex-studio cohort, Trevor Rabin carved out on the YES album “90125”, and specifically the guitar solo in the megahit, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart.”
That Borland achieved all of this using the Cakewalk Sonar X3 Producer as his DAW, is a crowning achievement, to say the least. Borland also states that the songwriting on this track is representative of his style prior to working with Weekends With Dan, and his punk influences. Bringing me straight to the track, “Happy B-B-Birthday”, which fits this album, and Borland’s innate superior musicality, in the same way wearing two left shoes, would. This is not to knock punk in any way, but I think the style limits the diverse tones and textures Borland is so capable of in song – case in point “Sunshine Funk”.
In a music industry where mindless pop clogs our charts, a musician such as Kevin Borland is a breath of fresh air. That he will build momentum and credibility over time seems almost inevitable. I look forward to exactly where he will be going, musically, with his upcoming album.