Review Summary: A Surprisingly cohesive compilation album from a very talented teen that left too soon.
It is safe to say that not every musician or artist is as gifted as the next. Some need to be taught while others are naturally born with an ear for music. Justin Veatch of Yorktown, New York fell under the latter of those two groups. Veatch started playing piano when he was just four years old and by the time he was thirteen he picked up on other instruments such as guitar, trumpet, glockenspiel, and drums. This was also around the time he started his solo project The Ivoryton Piano Factory and began writing his own music.
Tragically, Veatch left the world at the young age of seventeen due to an accidental drug overdose in 2008. That did not mean, however, that he did not leave behind a legacy. Justin Veatch's father decided to take his son's recordings that he left as well as reach out to other bands to do covers of them to make a compilation album and thus “Permagrin: The Music of Justin Veatch By the Ivoryton Piano Factory & Friends” was made. All of the songs were written by Veatch with the exception of the last song which is a tribute to him.
Of the six original songs by Veatch on the album his talent and strong songwriting are without doubt made apparent on each of them. The first song on the album “ESRT Page 14” might be the most memorable one. Veatch wrote the song when he was fifteen. The lyrics prove to be effective with the only line in the song being 'And I can't stay away, 'cause you're a radio wave and you always seem to be transmitting to my brain.' In the more gloomy and slow paced track “Can't Afford the Color,” Veatch paints a touching picture with his lyrics about him and his family having love and happiness in their eyes even while they are waiting in line at a soup kitchen. Veatch throws a bit of a curve ball in “Broken Angel” as it is a lot different from his other songs on here. The song is basically pop with electronica elements thrown in it. The energetic upbeat mood and the interesting mix make the song a fun listen. The album ends with the beautiful “Whispering Spirits.”It is the most stripped down track on the album being just his voice and his graceful piano playing.
The covers play a special homage to Veatch's original songs with their own personality. “Can't Afford the Color” translates beautifully into a big band jazz song as The Bensen Scott Big Band provides their spin on it. The cover of “Jersey City Homecoming” by Stay Home hardly sounds anything like the original. The tone of the cover is much brighter and warmer sounding with it being played in a major key whereas the original has a more dark feeling to it as it is in a minor key. Just like Veatch's version of “Whispering Spirits” the cover by Caterpillars is just as calming and dreamy. Every song on here is worth listening to. The last track of the album entitled “Justin's Song” written and performed by Anthony Melillo lyrically explains how Justin was an inspiration to him.
Melillo was not the only person to have been inspired by him either. Shortly after Veatch's passing a young Englishman tattooed the lyrics of “ESRT Page 14” on his ribcage and posted a picture of it to Veatch's myspace music page. When Veatch's father contacted him about the tattoo he told him that he got the tattoo not only because he loved Veatch's music, but also because he had a history of drug problems and wanted to remind him to take better care of himself.