Singer-songwriter Michael Joseph Nelson, known as Banners, releases first full album

Michael Joseph Nelson, a singer-songwriter under the stage name Banners, brings an inspirational style of music that hikes through the highs and digs through the lows of the human spirit in lyrics and sound.


Kyler Johnson, Arts Reporter

As the shadows of fall lengthen and winter darkness starts to creep in, the latest music from Banners Where the Shadow Ends brings an uplifting, pop-rock beat to keep spirits high.

Michael Joseph Nelson, guised under the stage name of Banners, is the singer of past successes such as “Someone to You” or “Shine a Light.” The singer tangles his lyrics in themes of inspiration and rising out of the darkness that so often pervades life. 

In his latest work, a quiet instrumental in “Intro” lays the foundation for the world crafted by his music. In under a minute, mingling strings rise and fall subtly. The pace quickens to a deep crescendo, guiding the listener into a heavy, heart-beat style drum of the first song, “Rule The World.”

Sinking back into that signature lyric play, the singer whisks a dreamily, love-laced idealism against the hard grind of reality. The dreamy chorus bursts energy, chanting how the singer and his audience “can just rule the world.” The buildup of instruments and choral voices crafts a modern symphony — all ending in one sigh.

This airy ending sinks into a heavier sound as the track proceeds to “Supercollide.” Following suit with the chorus acting as the pinnacle of energy, it doesn’t act like a dream. Instead, it buzzes with tension. The whole song tackles the contrast of light and dark in people, turning the word juxtaposition into a musical feeling.

The album then takes a bizarre turn from this vibrating tune to “Got It In You,” returning to a bare-bones piano opening. Although, this minimalist beginning changes quickly enough. Mimicking the style of the introduction, the instrumental oscillation puts the song as an emotional hit.

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“No One Knows Us” sings of sweet, romantic wishes; lovers seek seclusion from prying eyes. Featuring pop singer Carly Paige, the duet vocals adds a sweet feminine taste to the slightly rugged resonance of Nelson. Alongside a heavier dose of syncopated rhythms, the sound simply charms.

Charming more of a modern, electronic audience, the titular song “Where the Shadow Ends” mixes the heart of Nelson’s standard style with a synth experiment. The song is not the only one to play, as it acts as a pivotal moment for the entire album’s sound.

The electronic sounds prevail in the subsequent tune, “Light Up,” but turn toward an optimistic, upbeat style. The beat still swings on the heavier side, culling the piece back from too much of a dramatic shift.

However, the trend of the songs faster-paced shift continues. “Wild Love” busts out a pop-rock rhythm that pushes forward relentlessly. It carries passion. It holds emotion. It marks the energetic climax of the album. 

Sombering the mood, “Safe” returns to a heavy percussive beat that stays relatively fast-paced. The intensity of the percussion rings back to the roots. However, the instruments alter the impact, having dropped their pitch.

As the album hits its second to last song, “Too Soon” brings a much-needed ebb to the rising flow that the songs follow. It charges a few moments with a vigorous electric guitar to bring a push of power to the end of the album.

“Heads and Tails” sings out a raw feeling of holding on to faith and holding on to each other regardless. The strings that began the journey lace themselves into the end, alongside Joseph’s wordless vocals, putting the album to a soft, heartfelt rest — back where it started, to be replayed over and over again.