Leshay Simmons aka YSL is an artist and songwriter from Virginia Beach, Virginia, who recently announced the release of a new EP. From the recording, “Feels Like I’m Gone”, comes the single “Loud”, where the artist has fused soul-influenced cadences and pop vocal deliveries with acoustic folk picking and a mellow beat. YSL’s voice is his best instrument and is capable of covering a multitude of emotions. On this latest release, YSL is in his sweet spot, one that will prompt the interesting “Who does he sound like?” discussions. The truth is, he doesn’t sound like anybody other than YSL – although his work has been likened to people like John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, and Charlie Puth, among others.
With this latest release, YSL doubles down on his distinctive style, delivering a full sound without abandoning the elegant simplicity that sets him apart in the first place. The best musicians know when not to play, and none of the subtly added touches in “Loud” violate that rule.
YSL’s gentle acoustic playing also follows a silky trail that comes through beautifully. The notion of space is brought to bear because YSL never rushes too far ahead of the music. It’s always there, alongside his narrative, as he works through the complexities of life.
With stronger vocals than you might initially notice, YSL can be epically dramatic, but he cleverly sticks to an easy-going take, making for an elegant sound and a cool listen. Given his strength as a vocalist, he can get a full sound without straining, and sounds great when he’s just cruising vocally. That mood aids his heartfelt singer-songwriter approach allowing him to sound personal and authentic, without being overwhelming or forced in any way.
From the vocals to the songwriting, “Loud” shows a little bit of all the sides of YSL, though still with the sense that there’s something more that could push eventually through, moving forward. YSL’s songwriting is thoughtful and ruminative.
Despite or possibly because of tragic events, YSL has infused his music with positivity and inspiration that sits alongside shadowy, doubtful thoughts, offering insight to those who might reside in similar darkness.
“Loud” self-examines the singer’s thoughts and actions, unpacking their consequences. There is something to be said for a singer who isn’t afraid to share with the audience what he felt at the time he wrote his song. Every once in a while you come across music that hits home on so many levels that you realize the artist isn’t just making music about his experiences, but are also reaching out to his audience for some sort of connection.
YSL may not be the name on everyone’s lips right now, but that doesn’t mean, with a few pushes in the right direction, he might soon be. He has smooth, warm voice, and manages to make songs that are both rich and highly evocative, without using overbearing instrumentation or overly complex arrangements. “Loud” feels like YSL has, quite consciously, followed the basic rules for making a great track.