Marques Toliver's world is a dreamy, string-inflected one full of faith, longing, and desire. It's a place where motorcycles ride through French fields under a setting sun, and R&B is played to the accompaniment of orchestras in moonlit vineyards. His debut album, Land Of CanAan, is the Williamsburg performer's soulful, finger-snapping statement of aching love and trust. However, it's not a commitment to a land, but to a lover.

Although Toliver is a multi-instrumentalist, it's his violin playing that shines on Land Of CanAan. On the second track, 'Stay', Toliver pleads over strings that swoop like birds, singing, 'Don't want to lose you, please stay'. The beat gets stronger as the song takes a heavenly turn, with Toliver sounding like an angel pleading from on high, now with the firm resolution, 'You'll never be lonely'.

'If Only' then dips into a warm organ sound, and a bass-groove worthy of tilting your fedora and pulling shapes. The song bursts into a full, sweeping chorus with a sweet, soulful vocal, as horns come to carry Toliver away from his lover and into the clouds.

The strings play a more rhythmic role on 'Try Your Best'. A light xylophone chimes along, but it's when the lithe, tropical beat sets in underneath the track that it becomes something beautiful. 'Turn up your radio,' Toliver encourages you, and for good reason. Unlike Chris Brown, who encouraged you to turn up his music simply because it was playing, Toliver, requests you turn it to hear details of his symphony. It's a song worthy of full submersion, segueing into 'Repitition'--a shifting desert landscape of strings that float past like crossing winds.

'Weatherman' feels like a walk in a park, or a lie on a hillside. Either way, it's definitely an outdoor song. 'The sun will shine and dry away all of your sorrow,' promises Toliver, right before a sax solo that sounds like it would fit perfectly in 'Raindrops Keep Falling' by B.J. Thomas. Toliver reaches up into a falsetto, elevating this soul-pop song almost into Bill Whithers 'Lovely Day'-territory.

The short 'Magic Look' is likewise upbeat, but it's the next track, 'Control', that soars as the real standout. 'Baby, you control my smile,' sings Toliver. The instrumentation on the album all builds up to this, with the perfect combination of bright piano shaded with a background of angelic strings. Borrowing lyrics from Diana Ross, Toliver places himself amongst hypothetical mountains, valleys, and rivers separating him from his lover. It's criminally short, and could do without the CanAan-themed outro.

'Something's Wrong' is another great slice of soul-pop. Toliver brings his falsetto, as well as a guitar playing so delicate that its reflective notes glimmer like a pool in the nighttime light. They replace the strings for the first time in the album, demonstrating Toliver can write a great soul song, but choses to experiment further with his orchestral aesthetic.

'Find Your Way Back Home' is Toliver's final call out to a lost love. While the strings on Land Of CanAan add an ethereal sense of drama to the songs, the album is dreamy enough without the CanAan interludes found on tracks like this one.

Land Of CanAan is an excellent debut from Toliver, who also busks, acts, models, and edits a magazine. It's a solid soul album with enough original elements and heartfelt songwriting to make it an enjoyable listen, although at times it seems Toliver struggles to match his symphonic vision with the joyous soul-pop tunes.

Listen to lead single 'Control' below:


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