Album Review: Another Michael — ‘New Music and Big Pop’
Posted: by The Editor
When making a song about romanticizing music, it’s best to make a song worth romanticising in itself. “New Music,” the opening track on Another Michael’s debut LP, is that kind of song, opening on a scene of music discovery that feels weighty, sacred even in its mundanity—“We were up late online talking about new music/ And you sent me a link to a song that I’d never heard before.” Gliding in on a gentle, plaintive guitar, New Music and Big Pop starts off as if looking toward the kind of landscape pictured on its cover—a placid sunrise over a steady body of water. “New Music” is so calm and effortless, elevated by a chorus of oooohs in a lazy but crystalline beauty. It walks a very interesting line between serene and engrossing, casual but stunning.
“I want to make something timeless,” songwriter Michael Doherty sings during that opening track, and the rest of New Music and Big Pop shows that Doherty really means it. It’s not so much that New Music and Big Pop sounds like something that will stand the test of time, but that much of the record feels kind of suspended in time, stuck thoughtfully on a single moment. The buoyant “I Know You’re Wrong” stretches its glistening melody out as far as it possibly can, the titular lyrics gleefully taking up as much space as they need. “Hone” opens with a lonely strumming, only fleshing itself out in delicate and minor ways along the way—“I’ve got time; I think I’ll go for a ride.” Another Michael’s not in any rush.
And why should they be, with songs as pretty as these? The songs on New Music and Big Pop expand indie folk to bigger proportions—they’ve got the grandiosity of Illinois without the baroque drama, the peppy energy of Chutes Too Narrow without the anxious catharsis. Another Michael’s songs stay small but feel big, giving power to the subtle movements that they take. On “What Gives,” a breezy acoustic song picks up a meandering guitar and a single steady violin, but the core stays the same all the way through. On the jaunty “Big Pop,” a chorus that feels substantial enough to warrant a little aggressive jamming opts to fall in line with the rest of the song, opting to stay a jovial ditty instead of a loud rocker.
Many of these songs are defined by this kind of restraint, deriving their intensity from meticulous choices rather than swells of sound. Sometimes, this restraint can make New Music and Big Pop feel a little mannered—it’s hard not to wish for a version of “Big Pop” that really goes for it, that lets go and gets loud and energetic and emotional. On the other hand, that kind of move could break the serene aura that flows through the album, giving it a distinct and unique sound.
When Another Michael does choose to add a little crunch to their songs, the results are careful and powerful. A slightly dark electric riff recurs on “Row,” compounding the regret and worry that creeps into the band’s normally bright lyrics—“So you know what it feels like after a fight…will you look back when you’re seventy-five?” A deliberate, dense rhythm section deepens the reverential “I’m Not Home,” balancing the high, velvety nature of Doherty’s vocals.
In the act of romanticizing a new song, Doherty points to the emotion of its eventual absence—”I need to get my headphones on/ just think about the long pause after it’s gone.” The best songs stay with you after they’re over with, leave a mark you can see even when they’re not playing. The songs on New Music and Big Pop show that Another Michael are experts at manipulating texture and feel to create that profound lasting effect.
Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great /Phenomenal
Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh
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