Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Andy Michaels releases “Darling it Hurts” (single)

Two people stand atop a mountain, their hands joining as they look upon the peaks and valleys set out before them. We suddenly cut to another scene, this one set at a dinner table, as the pair exchange vacant stares and sip from large wine glasses. The scene shifts again to an open-air venue, but much of the same sentiments from the previous sit-down have carried over to this one. Andy Michaels is crooning in the background, his voice accompanied by a beautiful string melody, as tears are shed and headaches find little comfort on screen in this video for the all-new single “Darling It Hurts,” and though we are not in the physical presence of its two characters, their emotion is tangible to us nevertheless.

“Darling It Hurts” boasts one of the more spellbinding videos I’ve seen from an independent artist this March, but its real allure is the music it delivers to us, packaged in a light pop polish but left relatively unchanged from the form we find it in on the critically-acclaimed Incendiary Heart, Michaels’ latest album. The first half of the song is dominated by Andy Michaels and the strings that shelter every emotional statement he makes, but as we get deeper into the track, another voice decides to join him in what will become, at least in my opinion, one of the best duets you’re going to hear this spring. Their connection is as intimate as the players on screen, and they convey the mood of the unraveling imagery perfectly.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the production style Michaels decided to go with in the video for “Darling It Hurts,” and frankly, the same goes for Incendiary Hearts as well. All of his music is defined by its intricate detail, but in this latest release, I get the feeling that he wanted the simplicity of his songwriting to steal the show away from any of the minute elements that make-up the melody here. He’s got a lot of talent, and given how short his time in the spotlight has been, he’s truly come a long way (especially when comparing his development with that of his mainstream competitors) both in the studio and as a composer.

Though it’s marred in melancholy and occasionally difficult for the recently brokenhearted to digest, pop and adult contemporary fans would be crazy to pass up the new music video for Andy Michaels’ amazing “Darling It Hurts” single. Melodically, I’m not sure if he’s ever sounded quite as on-point as he does in this latest release, and if there’s any chance he makes it over to the States to carry out a proper tour in support of Incendiary Heart’s release, I definitely plan on being there to see what he can do in person. Michaels seems determined to climb through the underground ranks this year, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s earned a place on my personal ‘Artists You Have to Hear to Believe’ list without any need for reanalysis.

Joshua Beach

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Little King releases Occam’s Foil (EP)

Occam’s Foil from Southeastern based power trio Little King is your antidote to the bland paint by numbers rock prevalent in a moribund genre and has a level of ambition surprising for an EP release. The short form release is often an early teaser for full album releases to come but this five song collection is obviously a complete work built with a certain amount of thematic scaffolding yet is never outright conceptual. 

The band, led by singer/songwriter and guitar Ryan Rosoff, is a mainstay of the El Paso music scene since the late 20 th century and has seen members come and go, but Rosoff sounds like he has discovered the ideal configuration for taking the band into the future. Drummer Eddy Garcia is a longtime collaborator and Delaware friend Manny Tejeda completes the trio on bass. It is easy to imagine, listening to this release, the sort of power they pack in a live setting. The production is crisp and balanced between the three, but Rosoff obviously leads the way in some respects. They take some genuine musical chances over the course of these five songs further distinguishing them from their peers and contemporaries that are far from mere window dressing. 

“Hate Counter” sets a tone. This all out blast of musical wrath against building a wall between the United States and Mexico and putting children in jail cells has an almost bulldozer effect at first with Rosoff’s juggernaut riffing, but the band soon takes listeners through a variety of hairpin musical curves with breathtaking skill. This is no ordinary rock band. Rosoff’s vocal embodies all of the visceral anger thinking individuals feel at the song’s subject matter without ever succumbing to histrionics. 

They take a chance with the track “The Skin That I’m In” inviting violinist Christina Hernandez to contribute to the performance and her classical chops isn’t just meaningless tinsel added to the performance. Instead, she adds another layer to an already fine arrangement further demonstrating the band’s unusual compositional approach and Rosoff’s songwriting skill. Alternating between light and shade is something they do exceptionally well. 

“The Foil” will impress many, though some many find its finger pointing at society a little predictable. The musical identity of the song, nevertheless, has immense creativity and the arrangement will never cease to surprise you. Despite the finger pointing, it is Rosoff’s best moment on the EP as a lyricist as he throws in a number of devastating lines cutting through the arrangement and capturing listeners’ attention. If the EP has a title track, this is it. “Nerve 8” is another instance showing the band is at home on the stairway of surprise as they conclude the EP with a hard hitting instrumental track. Like the opener “Hate Counter”, “Nerve 8” twists and turns through a number of ear and eye popping changes without ever hitting a single clich├ęd note. 

Little King’s Occam’s Foil covers a tremendous amount of musical territory over the course of five songs and reveals this band is cut from a different cloth than most.

Joshua Beach