Reading from the lines of a postcard of recollections…

My own personal birthday banner

I recently had several of my loved ones throw a small celebration in honor of my 30th birthday. It’s the first significant occasion I’ve had take place in a world now altered by COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine, and one that occurred (safely online) despite those circumstances. 

Since the festivities and the official start to my 30’s, I’ve found myself in the mood to reminisce and glance back at the road I’ve traveled so far. Particularly after the many difficult events that have occurred in just the first few months of 2020.

Specifically, I’ve found myself focusing on the relationship between the life miles I’ve traveled and the music that’s been there with its thumb in the wind waiting for me, eager to hitch a ride on the trek. And where better to start, as most stories do, than with the beginning?

Photo source: NPR.org

I remember so many different bands and artists being played around my house when I was growing up.  

Billy Joel (that “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” piano solo!), Neil Young, Ray Charles, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles (so much good Beatles), James Taylor (the first musician I saw live in concert) and Dave Matthews Band. There was also plenty of support from the likes of Nirvana, The Eagles, Alanis Morissette, Nanci Griffith, Collective Soul, Oasis, Tracy Chapman (whose work still haunts me in the most beautiful way), the Crash Test Dummies, Soul Asylum… it was a feast fit to keep many a cassette and CD player well-fed.

It was also just the sort of early flavor palate any music hobbyist aspires to begin learning on. After all, every healthy garden has to start with just a few strong seeds, and the gene pool I developed from had plenty to share.

Photo via greenbaypressgazette.com

Eventually, that initial versatility led to my own musical choices, which included some lasting hits (U2, the Bee Gees), as well as a few that didn’t make the long-term cut (the boy band years for instance). However, regardless of their ultimate status, each artistic contribution remains important because much like the flap of a butterfly’s wings causing a hurricane, the smallest change might mean I’d be a different person today.

And that’s not something I’d be willing to compromise on or accept, virus or no virus.

Image via Genius.com

I like to say Warren Zevon was the jumping on point where listening to music became more than just a passing habit of mine. The now-sadly-deceased singer-songwriter was a master of macabre wit, wistful heartbreak, and a trademark, slicked back Mr. Bad Example personality. For me, Zevon was like finding the Holy Grail in another run-of-the-mill junk sale, and nothing would again be the same. 

(Knowing you could use the word “brucellosis” in a song… game-changer).

As gifted as he was, Zevon’s talent was held back by varying factors, including a lack of commercial success, subsequently being mislabeled as a one hit wonder with 1978’s “Werewolves of London”, and many years of erratic battles with personal demons. Still, I’ve never heard his kind before or since, and the initial discovery gave my ears their first taste of just how wide and variable the world of melody could truly be outside my small-town knowledge.

I just needed the patience to mine for it. 

Photo courtesy of NPR.org

From there, I was drawn into further revelations later on via the likes of Wilco’s folk-rock experimentalism, Ryan Adams’ sad bastard songwriting sensibility, and Ben Folds’ proficiency for mouthy piano-slinging. Almost like relationships, each connection for better or for worse has paved the way for more progress in my musical paint set the older I’ve become. 

Progress though… can be a tough word to reckon with when it comes to the double-edged sword that is the steady forward march of age. 

On one hand, the expansion of my horizons in this medium have without question been some of the greatest blessings of my existence. The teenage version of myself holding his first iPod classic would never have been able to imagine the artists I’ve heard and loved up to now, the friends I’ve made through music, and the way its made me a better version of myself.

Cbc.ca is the source for this image

Yet… I feel an almost imperceptible sense of the blues standing here now, officially 30 years old. Songs like Joni’s “The Circle Game” or Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” used to make me suffocatingly sad as a kid knowing that those innocent moments I was in when I heard these tracks couldn’t last. That eventually, time comes between the fun and games to take us off to the tasks of adulthood. And at this stage of my days (and in these current times), I can confirm to my youthful past that innocence doesn’t last, and there is a part of me wishing I’d used all that early time for something more than I did.

But that’s part of growing up (and learning to be well-versed in the art of 20/20 hindsight). The good and bad things in this existence are about as adept at escaping their connection as we are at dodging inevitable time or age or death. What matters more is coming to terms with and accepting the ups and downs, and still making the most of them. It’s not easy, but we only get so long to learn and grow and do, and I for one plan to waste no time in carving more musical stories into my next decade.

I just hope to get to take you all on the trip.

Knock, Knock…

I’ve been missing from the land of the living, here we are now lonely together…

What a difference a few months can make between updates.

Since my last post in late-February, we’ve all had a front row seat for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I haven’t had the virus myself and I’m lucky to say it hasn’t hit too closely to those in my personal life, but regardless the ongoing situation has been a difficult one to attempt to process for a multitude of reasons.

There’s of course the anxiety and fear spent on any possibility of getting ill, as well as worrying for those who’ve gotten sick, are on the front lines fighting COVID, or are just struggling to get by. This period of time has also brought to mind that innocence of childhood, where so much more seems simple and safe.

That well-being, if perhaps a bit naive, felt like an impenetrable shield that acted as protection for any evil big or small. Sadly, part of growing up is learning life can’t always play by those unwritten rules, especially where a problem like a virus is concerned.

Issues like that have a way of getting real in a hurry.

But we will survive this. All the written words of thoughts and feelings aside, there will be another side out of which we will emerge again. I don’t know when that will be and there are still more hurdles to cross, but we will overcome and still be here to speak of music’s perfect melody!

I promise you that.

Be well and stay safe everyone. Much love to you all!

Fay’s “Firefly” offers sharp final preview before “Intuition” album release

The world of music is much like anything else when it comes to overall activity and how it relates to the time of year. January is usually pretty far removed within the doldrums of quiet, but luckily the pace starts to positively shift and accelerate once February gets a head of steam going.

And luckily for those of you who count yourselves as OTBEOTB readers, that means more features to peruse!

For today’s commentary, we return to artist Randi Fay, who’s on the cusp of releasing her concept album Intuition February 20th. Previously I evaluated the title track from the upcoming LP, now its time to take the vitals of its sibling single “Firefly” to get more of a sense of just what Fay’s concept is all about.

In comparing the two songs off the bat, the musical approach of “Firefly” certainly fits within the same melodic framework and audio-centric story teased at by “Intuition”. It has a fresh, exuberant rush of boisterous, retro 80’s layering mixed into a swelling pulse reminiscent of swirling K-pop, all while still maintaining a unique dance-floor identity. 

Don’t let that immediately upbeat nature fool you into thinking this endeavor is only about fun however. Beneath that danceable, rhythmic frenzy lies a sobering lyrical commentary that attempts to discover what’s real and genuine in a world dominated by Instagram filters, like quantities, and ego-boosting smoke and mirrors.

All in all, the contrast between the two opposing sides makes for the best metaphor to truly send the point across home plate. 

Much like the song “Intuition”, “Firefly” also has a strong sense for big, constellation-soaring hooks as well as easily ingratiating charm. Fans certainly won’t walk away disappointed.

Listen below:

Mohawk Bends make strong debut OTBEOTB feature with slick rocker “See What You Do To Me”

It’s now the month of February, which is right about the time we Northeast folk can JUST begin thinking about digging out from under winter’s stern, unflinching grasp. And unfortunately, while we are making some progress prying up the season’s fingers, the mood in the air remains an inflexibly grey, lethargic blandness. 

Thankfully we have the fiery energy of bands like Mohawk Bends to help melt away some of those frigid blues. The indie rockers recently dropped the sprawling, thrashing hammer of single “See What You Do To Me”, which soars on a wave of arpeggio-ed guitars, massively fun hooks, and confidence oozing out of every pore. 

It’s the kind of song at first listen that demonstrates strong musicianship without needing to take itself too seriously. And that’s long been one of the beauties of straight up, not-grown-in-a-test-tube rock n roll. While I can appreciate the next clever set of poetry set to intricate melody as much as the next music listener, sometimes it hits straighter to the point to take screwed-over heartbreak, add a teaspoon of nervy, flexing guitars cranked up to 10, and let the passion and talent take care of the rest. 

This Austin-based outfit manages to pull that all together and then some with “See What You Do To Me”, which blends together sounds from the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Collective Soul, The Whigs and Oasis while still maintaining the nature of its own identity. And that’s one of the most important things to achieve here, when you can make a listener come back based on your approach to musical creativity, not because you just sound like group x, y or z. 

The realm of rock is always in need of more worthy ambassadors, and thankfully Mohawk Bends seem up to the challenge with a track like this in their arsenal.

Listen below:

Car roads and the casual melodies….

I recently found myself introducing a significant seismic shift into the expanding universe otherwise known as my existence. Namely, by deciding to alter my circumstances and start a new job that’s far removed from my old stomping grounds in media. The decision’s involved making a lot of significant alterations to my life and has left me wondering just what this next choice of a fork in the road has in store for me in the long run.

To be honest, the further outward I travel in that regard, the more I realize there’s a lot to unpack in the hypothetical possibilities.

Those unknown pages are exciting yet somehow dizzying and terrifying all at once, and that internal struggle of feeling makes tackling the present… less than pleasant from time to time. Especially for someone who’s fought chronic anxiety for years now with varying degrees of success.

But luckily, before each fresh morning of my newly-occupied time begins, I am given a small window of a commute for music and melody to come crawling on in to keep me company. The guest stars involved in the event usually rotate quite frequently too.

For a while it was Bruce Springsteen’s 2019 solo effort Western Stars. While I didn’t make a Top 10 album list for the year just expired, The Boss certainly would have made a cameo for this one as this record thrives on one of Springsteen’s main specialties: character songs.

While my car cuts a knife through backwoods, fields and scattered homes set against a rustic terrain, it’s easy to be transported away into the world of Western Stars. For one thing, there’s its engrossing stage of lovelorn daredevils (“Drive Fast (The Stuntman)”), past-prime cowboys (“Western Stars”), and aching nostalgics (“Moonlight Motel”). There’s also Springsteen’s ever-present ability to paint a vivid audio portrait for the listener that’s about more than just the story embedded at the surface.

Inside all those actors, the 70-year old New Jersey native injects honesties that include love, loss, insecurity, the struggles of blue collar living, and plumbing the dark depths of emotional turmoil. And while I never imagined making a segue between these two artists, many of those creative adjectives are also present via another cameo of my weekday listenings: rapper Mac Miller and his 2020 work Circles.

Circles was completed by producer-at-the-helm Jon Brion and recently released following Miller’s untimely demise from an accidental drug overdose in 2018. Like Western Stars, Circles is similarly a brilliantly flawed slice of humanity, not to mention another sort of seismic shift for its creator.

When Miller first came on the scene I remember him coming off as a stereotypical white frat-boy rapper, and as a result an attraction to his work never occurred for me. My car trips with Circles have caused me to bury that presumptive judgement however, as very sadly Miller seemed ready to show us a varied, evolving vision of himself creatively that we now can only get a glimpse of.

For example, album tracks like “Everybody” and “That’s On Me” ditch the hip-hop for a touch of The Beatles filtered through Elliott Smith’s Figure 8, with Miller showing a likable capability as a vocalist. Meanwhile, the title track is a gently meditative intro that slices deep into the cartilage of the musician’s blossoming display of vulnerability. Miller also hits familiar rap signposts with “Complicated” and “Blue World”, but despite the tone shifts the album’s focus remains on looking inward no matter the darkness.

I applaud artists willing to stare into the harshest parts of the mirror, not only for the courage of revealing truths in themselves but for placing those constellations in the sky for their listeners to find too. My experience in this case may be as simple as a few moments spent in the car before a long working day, but albums like Circles and Western Stars make those daily efforts easier to handle.

That’s because artists like these and so many others openly exorcise their fears, worries and anxieties in a way that, when we connect to it, feels like it slays the demons for us a bit too. I can think of few better ways to make the busy weeks just a little bit lighter.

Fay unveils new single “Intuition” in exclusive OTBEOTB premiere

One of my favorite segments to incorporate here on the digital pages of this website involves getting to pull back the curtain and exclusively debut new music for you all to enjoy.

That’s because, on one hand, there’s a certain type of privilege in getting to say you’re the “first” to hear something you want to tell others about. Not to mention, there’s also a particular level of creative trust involved in getting an artist to decide you’re the right person to champion the initial flag flight of their latest gestating endeavor. 

And in the land of this freelancing hobbyist of melody I fancy myself to be, that’s a pretty special honor to receive.

But I digress. Today we’re here to discuss and celebrate the premiere of Rändi Fay’s new single “Intuition”. It’s not only the second teaser off of her forthcoming February 20th full-length LP of the same name, it’s also being dropped in tandem with a brand new music video you’ll see here as well in just a matter of paragraphs.

At first glance, as a new release “Intuition” has a vibe like the first initial tendril-ing of the freshness of forthcoming spring as we still sit prone in the doldrums of yet another January winter. The track carries a lightly bright, upright sparkle of waving up-and-down synthesizer grooves that buoy the steady pep of Fay’s vocal in a layer of sunny, well-crafted electronica pop veneer.

But, despite having an arrangement reminiscent of a slice of spacey, 8-bit throwback, “Intuition” still has a straight-up knack for the basic structural heart of what makes a pop song so infectiously memorable. In fact, shortly after my first several listens to the song, I found its themes of love and connection rolling around and around in my head like a thought refusing to be let loose well after the final notes had faded.

And in our world the way it’s been today, we could all use a little more of those topics in our lives. Get your little dosage right here by watching the music video below.

We’re “No Stranger” to loving new single from Moonray

Image by Taylor Prinsen Photography

Jonray and Barbara are a couple from Texas who make up the synth-pop duo Moonray. The pair recently released a music video for a sweet new single called “No Stranger to Love”, which possesses both a sprightly bubble in its rhythmic stride as well as an easily-affable ear-worm of a song structure.

As pop tunes go, the pair have a clever knifing knack for the genre as the track is filled with the exuberance of a Jukebox the Ghost with a touch of The Postal Service’s modern sprawl.

This tale of weathering the storm of a reeling romance in just 3 minutes, 20 seconds has an added, non-scientific chemistry as well when you consider the connection of its narrators. Maybe that’s just some type of coupling-induced placebo effect talking at this moment. Regardless, Barbara and Jonray give off an easy, familiar comfort with each other in this tandem as they meld and intertwine seamlessly within the spreading arrangement. 

Image by Taylor Prinsen Photography

Try NOT to get it stuck in your head, I dare you.

View the lyric video below for “No Stranger to Love”, which is an understated yet equally perfect swipe-right match that wins over the heart of this song. 

A big part of the vibe of this track are its synthesizers, which helps spark an infectious beat that carries the melodic backbone. To further elaborate on just how they incorporate these instruments into their music, I will now turn it over to the duo in Moonray, who were ever-so kind enough to tell us a bit more about it, and how “No Stranger to Love” came to be.

Image by Taylor Prinsen Photography

Being fans of Prince, Madonna, David Bowie, The Human League, Depeche Mode, amongst others, we always felt that synthesizers were magical, creating soundscapes of unlimited sonic capabilities. 

When we first started playing together, synthesis was somewhat new to us. Our first live set up included a Moog bass synth and a Dave Smith polysynth. Once we got our hands on some knobs, the curiosity started endless possibilities of how we could create music with synthesizers. 

We started researching and learning about other synths and what some of the greats used. We dived deep into some of the synth pioneers including Laurie Spiegel, Dave Smith, Tom Oberheim, and Bob Moog (who Jonray shares a birthday with). Did you know that synthesizers weren’t commonly used in pop music until the early ’60s? The first synthesizer, which was called the Telharmonium, was invented around the late 1890s and was enormous, weighing around 200 tons. Let’s just say this began a small synthesizer obsession and we began saving up to buy some of the iconic reissues that have been released, such as the OB6 and the Model D. 

 We later found out about “Switched-On” here in Austin. Filled with many vintage and new synthesizers, we decided to pop in for a visit and by Golly! There it was, right there in front of us, an Oberheim OB-Xa (pictured below) from the ’80s, which was used in Prince’s “Purple Rain” album. It is also most commonly known in Van Halen’s “Jump.” Instantly recognizable magic. After listening and playing with it for an hour in downtown Austin, we were blown away and knew we had to have it. We rushed home, gathered every piece of gear that we could let go of in order to trade in for it. This began a wormhole. 

Welcoming the new synth into our home, we immediately wanted to compare it with the reissue OB6. We found them to be extremely different and although today we still love the OB6 and use it for live shows, the vintage synthesizer seems to have a lot more charisma than the newer ones. Maybe it’s the fact that they naturally detune more because they didn’t have the advanced technology we have today with such precise control. They are imperfectly perfect. Our desire even lead us to a 1,200 mile journey to Wisconsin in our van to pick up an extremely rare Prophet 10, pictured below. 

We do enjoy having both worlds just as a painter likes to have color options ranging from warm to cool. In our studio, having access to both vintage and modern synthesizers offers us the best of both worlds. There are so many different ways we use our synthesizers—as a bass, a drum, a ripping lead, an orchestral symphony, an arpeggiated sequence, a white/pink noise mimicking wind or ocean, there are endless possibilities. That’s what makes it so much fun. Sometimes we like to turn on multiple synthesizers and let them drone for meditation. 

 One of our favorite things to do is to travel and write some arrangements via midi with a small midi keyboard such as the Yamaha Reface and Arturia Keystep. We then bring the data back into our home studio and that’s where the real fun begins. We are able to send that data to our choice of various keyboards and sculpt the sound with both hands on the knobs. Some of our synthesizers like the CS-80 do not have midi so, therefore, we usually require four hands, one will play while the other sculpts. We do rely on the reissues for our live performance but primarily use vintage synthesizers and drum machines in the studio. 

“No Stranger to Love” was created part in studio and part on the road over a period of a year. We wrote the music for it and revisited later on adding the lyrics. It began with drums and bassline using a TR-808 drum machine, a Moog Model D bass and a Dave Smith Prophet 10 Poly Synth. Although it began that trio, it ended up having 3 iconic drum machines: the Linn Drum (Madonna, Prince, The Human League), TR-808 on tons of hits and Oberheim DX Stretch. We ended up using the Moog Voyageur on the bass, Poly synths included: Jupiter 8, Oberheim OB-8, Jupiter 6, Roland VP-330 Vocoder, Roli (modern software-based instrument), and Rickenbacker 350 V63 Electric Guitar. The guitar was tracked with a line 6 Helix guitar processor outputted into a small 8’ Supro guitar tube amp mic’d with an SM57 and an ELAM 251. Vocals were cut with a Neumann U67 and a Telefunken C12.

 Ultimately at the end of the day, you don’t need expensive gear or synthesizers to create a great song, they’re just tools and it’s about what you do with them. We even like to have options such as old Casios priced at $30 off of reverb.com. Even Korg makes an awesome analog like the Korg Minilogue that’s both affordable and amazing. It’s a favorite travel companion due to its size. That being said, as business owners of both Moonray and Moon Lab Studios, we are grateful to be able to offer these unique historical pieces to our clients and keep on creating music we can share. Some of our favorites include The CS-80, ARP 2600, Memory Moog LAMM Mod, Prophet 10, Matrix 12, Jupiter 8, and the modern ones: Moog One and The Schmidt, modern classics. 

Fay’s “Christmas List” a shiny slice of holiday sweetness (includes artist playlist!)

With the month of December firmly at our side, it’s time to start thinking about the next stage of the holiday season before we officially wind down 2019. Though for many by this point in time, the perspective has likely evolved from simply “thinking” of the forthcoming festivities. I’m guessing part of the mood has instead escalated to a frightened last minute, “Amazon and shopping list”-fueled, shaky-brandy-fever haze of equal parts perspiration and preparation. 

Or… hopefully something a bit less extreme than that description was going for, but you get the idea.

Regardless, this post isn’t meant to reflect on such insignificant, commercialized matters. What I like to focus on instead during this period of time… is the pure aspect of simple joy. Whether the likes of Christmas, Hanukkah or just your own peace of mind acts as your guide, it’s important to snag every good vibe possible while taking the tour. Though it’s okay to be a Grinch too… at least sometimes anyway.

But to go back to that positivity, I can sense a wealth of it bubbling up in musician Rändi Fay and her cover of 90’s holiday tune “Grown-Up Christmas List”. The track’s arrangement is a sugarplum-sweetened send-up to that so-called “most wonderful time of the year”, with the rise and fall of a prime power-pop ballad soaked in a sheen of tinsel-like synths. 

Despite the song having an edge that leans on the side of saccharine, Fay never steps over the line into the realm of corny and contrived here. Rather, the track’s sentiment of wishes for peace, love and harmony wear as well on her vocals as a familiar fall sweater. And in a world that can be quite scary in today’s day and age, that’s the kind of comfort we should never take for granted. 

Now while we’re exploring this moment of such prominent holiday themes, I thought I would take this moment to turn things over to Rändi herself. She was kind enough to send over her own playlist of Christmas-themed tunes, read on to check ’em out!

Christmas music is so diverse, as is the spirit of Christmas. There are so many moods! And so many songs that I have performed, recorded and really enjoy! For this playlist, I focused on my experience of the season’s undercurrent of quiet love and anticipation. That is my favorite part of the holiday-unambiguous, honest, simple love. Candlelight and faith, sharing time, sharing hearts, or just sharing. I look forward to that all year! I added in a few Christmas songs that I have written-it is no surprise they effortlessly fall into this vein-and the songs that inspired my lyric and message.

  1. Grown-Up Christmas List: Rändi Fay

I chose to record my first cover song in 7 years. If you know this song, the reason why will be obvious. It’s incredible! And eternally apropos. Can we collectively make our planet a more compassionate place by choosing kindness? That is my “Grown-Up Christmas List.”

2. One King: Point of Grace 

The idea of four kings is so simple, fresh and beautiful. “One king held the frankincense, one king held the myrrh, one king held the purest gold, one king held the hope of the world…” I recorded this song on my “Noël” CD in 2012 and it is still one of my favorites on that project. Here is the original version by Point of Grace:

3. Some Children See Him: James Taylor

So sweet and true, through the eyes of a child, love is love. My recurring wish… 

4. Joy Whispered: Rändi Fay 

While writing this song, I tried to capture the vast span of culture present at the birth of Jesus- worldly kings, poor shepherds, heavenly angels all sharing their collective excitement of the birth of a child! But whispering their celebration so as not to wake him…Sweet and simple. Precious. Universal. 

5. Merry Christmas Darling: Sitti 

Being with the one you love-another Christmas wish. “I wish I were with you.” This is a very strong pull for me in the holiday, and the inspiration for my song “Evergreen.”

6. Song for a Winter’s Night: Gordon Lightfoot 

Writing a love letter during a sleepless night through a winter snowfall, cold and dark. How telling is this sentiment: “I read again between the lines upon each page, the words of love you sent me…” Anticipation, heartfelt trust…When writing the lyric for “Evergreen” I wanted to touch at those communication gaps where hope fills in the blanks. And waiting through a storm with faith. You will come home. I recorded this song on my “Noël” CD as well, and it too is one of my favorites.

8. Blow Northern Wind: Midævil Babes

I absolutely love this one-the harmonies and clear tones are bewitching! Another inspiration for the mood and mystery I was hoping for “Evergreen.”

9. Evergreen: Rändi Fay

Haunting and sincere-this song is about waiting and faith and unconditional love. One of my earliest co-writes with my current producer and one of my favorites!

10. Wexford Carol: Libera

A continuation of pure tones, the simplicity of children’s voices, honesty. This whole album is stunning!

11. Mary, Did You Know?: Straight No Chaser

I have performed this song a hundred times and also recorded it for “Noël.” As a mother, it is very dear and near to me. I wonder what Mary knew? How could she possibly have grasped the potential and gravity in this child she just gave birth to? I love the fact that this song was written by a man, and I chose a version performed by men. The mystery is so great, crossing gender and generations. This song inspired “Little Babe.”

12. Little Babe: Rändi Fay

This song was a very powerful one for me to write. It is my attempt to answer the question in “Mary Did You Know?”  From a mother’s perspective at the time of Jesus’ birth, I think all she knew was love and protection. How overwhelming those two simple emotions are at their core, when a new child comes into your life. You don’t think beyond it. You just want them safe in your arms forever.

Thank you for the chance to share some of my favorite Christmas and seasonal songs. Here is a link to the entire playlist- I am still populating it! I would love suggestions for some of your a little more obscure favorites!

Holiday Love:

“Not for myself, but for a world in need…”

Much Love!

Rändi

Strong “Output” from Canadian group on November’s “Retroactive” EP

Output 1:1:1 is a whisper-thin, gossamer industrial Bon Iver/Joy Division-send up of a musical project birthed north of the border in Toronto by artist Daniel Janvier. Output recently put out debut EP “Retroactive Rock Record” in November. 

The collection of songs slowly unspools and relates its story as a minor-key claustrophobic, occasionally uncomfortable deep diving riptide. The space it creates as a result resembles the crumpled up-and-down heap of someone’s twist and turned car-spin psyche slowly being pulled under hazy waves of turmoil.  

Tunes like “Issues at Track Level” take Janvier’s David Byrne-Morrissey fusioning drone of a croon and metaphorically presses it into the tousled scrapbook pages of something collected by Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich. There’s also just a sprinkle of slightly off-balance Tom Waits thump hollowing out it’s own space in the musical terrain. Yorke’s influence especially feels strong in other tracks like the title song, “Blue Jacket” and “The End Wave”. That’s not just from a vocal standpoint either. 

While Janvier’s voice can certainly soar with a light delicacy, it’s the absolute desolation, longing and motivation in the tone of each of his declarations that sell the weight of meaning each track is meant to bestow. Half the battle separating a good vocal performance from a great one is just where the intention comes from. 

I can hear a pitch-perfect singer with no soul, or a rugged, gasping ruffian who’s seen the weight of the world on their shoulders and worn it as an overcoat. Similarly, I can behold the words of pure poetry in a set of melodic lyrics, or I can simply be buoyed like a boat on a tempest by someone expressing pure emotion without need to place all the punch behind the words associated. 

The latter comes to mind with “Retroactive Rock Record”, which takes its greatest strength from the simple power of feel. The lyrics do their part as well, but let it not be said that the musical artist can’t further color in their palette arrangement by simply mastering the conveyance of tone.   

Credit on all photos goes to Emma Letki. For more music, check out https://www.outputoneoneone.com/

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