EP Review: Mr. Andrew, “His Guitar Is Noir”

Note: This post was authored back in June and publication was suspended until Mr. Andrew put his music up on Bandcamp, which never happened.  I’m going to go ahead and publish now, hopefully putting pressure on Andrew to give the people what they want.

UPDATE: You can now purchase this EP, as well as “love and how to lose it.” HERE!

Okay folks, here goes for my first stab at reviewing a local release.  Last Friday my dear buddy Mr. Andrew had a birthday and put out his second solo EP His Guitar Is Noir.  Last year’s love and how to lose it was one of my favorites of the year hands-down, despite the fact that its six songs clocked in at only twelve and a half minutes.  In about the time it takes to listen to either half of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, Andrew established himself as a masterful artisan in the skilled trade of Song.  His verse is pointed and economical, and delivered in a voice that might rise from a measured croon to a piteous howl and drop back down again within the same phrase.  His guitar playing reveals both the bright, balanced flourishes of his classical training and the Playing Too Damn Hard aesthetic of his punk tutelage.  He shares the same dogged compulsion that I have of refusing to let any song get away with being purely diatonic.  Simply put, Andrew is the kind of songwriter and performer I strive to be, as diverse and authentic in his output as his influences.

Before I proceed, let me divulge a critical bias: I find it exceedingly difficult to listen to most albums that feature only a solo performer all the way through, no matter the artist.  I can only get all the way through an entire Mountain Goats record if I make myself do it.  On love, Andrew avoided this pitfall by bringing in the Folksonomy’s own versatile Alex Stein on keys, adding lovely texture and color while not compromising any of the intimate, confessional quality of any piece.  Knowing that Guitar was a truly *solo* effort, this was the only doubt I had that I might not love this album as much as the last.

Guitar keeps the same number of tracks but shaves a minute off the time.  Some might be tempted to argue that this is too short for a release, but these people are fools.  This record is exactly the right length.  I think Andrew is doing for the EP what Marvin Gaye did for the full-length when he made What’s Going On, which is as short as some EPs.  I measure the value of music not by how much of my life it demands each time I revisit it, but by the places it takes me in that time.  In the tradition of the Saved By The Bell theme, Andrew strides through entire song forms at record speed.  Opening track “Feelin’ Lonely” covers two verses, a bridge and a third verse (with a creeping thematic variation in the guitar part) in under two minutes.  Two of the songs on Guitar (“Down The Sink” and “My Friends And I”) were recorded to tape, which adds a nice bit of warmth, charm and variation of color to the palette of the record without wearing out its welcome from a fidelity standpoint.

But what I love most of course are the lyrics.  There are despairing dirges like “Feelin’ Lonely”, but the most achingly bittersweet moments come in songs that might technically be categorized as ‘happy’ (“So Good, So Long” and “I’m Dumb, I Know”), but bear the scars of a heart abused too many times ever to forget or mend completely.  Reminds me a little of “High”, one of my favorite songs by The Cure.  But my personal favorite on the album might be “Lately I’m Unstable”, a meditation on the creative process that I find very relatable; though I’m usually grateful at the end of it, sometimes it’s so unclear whether I’m healing or harming myself.

What can I say.  I think Andrew knocked it out of the park with this record.  Maybe you expected me to say that, but that’s because you know I have great taste, not because you think I’m biased, right?  Do yourself a favor and acquire a copy, and listen to it.  A lot.  Thanks to the ‘fun size’ length, I usually spin the whole thing at least 2-3 times a day.

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