(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, August 13, 2010

CD review - Vincent Minor, Vincent Minor (2010)

"Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it"...Well, those who know the past can often improve it. Vincent Minor's new self titled CD (due out September 21) expands upon the classic piano based singer/songwriter model. With inspirations like Harry Nilsson, Paul Williams, and Tori Amos, Minor has created a unique sound using piano and orchestration. Many of his songs are moody with a kind of clingy darkness, but they're not whiny. In fact, the overall sense is one of documenting or overcoming, not wallowing.

The album opens with The Trap, which pulls a play from the Wilco songbook. There's a tone in one ear, a clock tick, and sparse piano intro. Minor's voice has a plaintive Jeff Tweedy quality. The sound swells as the song accrues elements. If Minor had put more guitar on it, I might have mistaken this for a Wilco cover. Like Tweedy, the lyrics here a bit abstract, but the song satisfies, even as it ends with a more hopeful musical tone.

Jack and the Waltz sounds like some of Janis Ian's earliest work or Paul Williams crossed with Tori Amos. It's piano driven pop from a singer/songwriter point of view. While it starts out introspectively, it opens up into more of a wistful mood. The arrangement is clean with a lush piano and slight accompaniment on the verses. The chorus has a stronger pop focus. The bridge also reminds me of Rufus Wainwright, who comes from a similar place.

One of the more upbeat tunes is Heavy Metal Lover, which comes from somewhere between Tin Alley and the Brill Building. It's a different flavor of retro pop than the standard sources. The lyrics are clever and amusing as Minor sings of a misguided obsession:
Pseudo dictator, handsome Hitler
Putting drugs in my tea again
Arsenic for flavor, you're a heavy metal lover,
Why can't you just say you don't want me around.
The feel is relentlessly cheery, despite whatever might happen to the singer as he sticks with his bad choice.

Be sure to look for Vincent Minor once his album is out and try to catch one of his shows. He's been organizing a Craigslist tour, with pick up musicians in each city. I might try to catch his Denver show, sipping a Manhattan.

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