When Stratsburg, Pennsylvania native James Wolpert first hit The Voice stage back in its fifth season with a killer rendition of Jack White’s “Love Interruption”, fans of the show knew that they had a rocker on their hands like they’d never before had enter the reality show circuit. While it’s almost ludicrous to consider the compounded phrase “legitimate rock artist on The Voice“, that’s exactly what Wolpert was, delivering a controlled, brooding electricity all his own each and every time he performed on the show. All of these factors have contributed to a sustained fanbase for Wolpert throughout the years following his Voice run, remaining as an amiable reminder that, every so often, something good and individualistic can come out of the reality circuit. Needless to say, the moments leading up to the release of his debut solo album, The Entire City were full of excitement on behalf of his “Wolppack”, and skepticism for the true rock community.
The good news for Wolpert is that, except for perhaps the most ardently traditional rock and roll enthusiasts, the moment that someone kicks off The Entire City with a spin of lead single and opening track “Bats”, any dubiety that they may have handled before their listen would be dashed. Embracing clear influence from the aforementioned Jack White, “Bats” is as spastic and bombastic as it is careful and ruminating. Beginning with an off-kilter verse accompanied solely by a folkish acoustic riff and Wolpert’s emotional vocals, the song kicks into high gear on the chorus, emitting a static current that wouldn’t feel uncomfortable being blared out of festival speakers from off of a huge stage.
Wolpert exemplifies his knack for instrumentation on titular track “The Entire City”, which is next on the LP. The track is an even darker affair than its predecessor, topping off its run with a dosage of pure attitude courtesy of a rip-roaring electric solo on the bridge. This leads perfectly into the summery, clap-along anthem of “Blondie”, which harks back to the steady era of 1960s surf rock. Elsewhere, the deliciously aberrant of blues licks on “My Love” sound like a crossbreed of White and the Black Keys.
The album isn’t just blaring-right-in-your-ears rock and roll, though, and Wolpert does an excellent job at vicariously exemplifying his chameleon-like songwriting abilities through this fact. “Friends” plays with elements of country and gospel with a hook reminiscent of the Band’s “The Weight”, whereas he goes full-on folk on the totally acoustic “Portraiture” and plays with a Mumfordian sound on “Another Lonely Night”. Meanwhile, “White Moon” weaves around classical instrumental elements expertly, with Wolpert dishing out an impassioned croon like a Disney prince with life problems. The real showstopper on The Entire City, however, belongs to “Mirage” and “Reprise”, which, together, tell a compelling story over an anthem that nears 10 minutes in length and covers all of the sonic influences mentioned above in one cohesive piece.
All in all, The Entire City represents an impeccably solid real first step into the music industry for 25-year-old Wolpert. He has proven himself in his debut release, exemplifying impeccable grasp of what it really means to rock for a newcomer to the scene. It also represents something good for The Voice and shows like it. For every terribly clichéd sob story and set of rigged judges’ comments which may or may not pervade them, you get a true artist using the machine to their best ability. As far as fifth season contestants go, Wolpert is a proverbial winner in the truest sense, having tangled with TV glory for a real shot at a career in music, and not in hackneyed celebrity.