Top Two Music Picks from 2016


The two albums that have proven to be the cream of the crop of new music that I’ve listened to in 2016 surely represent differences in the perspectives and personalities of their creators, but, they also have a good deal in common.

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Original review of Playing Games With The Shadow

Playing Games With The Shadow by Kevin Max is a mysterious brew of self-reflection, espionage, jaded experience, angst, and hope filtered through the post-punk/new wave musical filter that is the mind and iconic voice of Kevin Max. One-third of DC Talk and former frontman for Audio Adrenaline, but, never one to sit still and grow stagnant, Max seems hellbent on toeing the line between what is true, what has never been done before, and what he can get away with on Playing Games With The Shadow. The assemblage of tunes featured on this album provide an intriguing experience for listeners who find themselves on the fray, surveying the heights, mysteries, and depths of their own life experiences. Tracks that showcase a heavier rock influence such as “Election,” and “Music is Magic!” are highlights for me, but, the significant new wave tilt of “William Blake” is hard not to love.

The bridge that I stand upon while writing this is the common mile marker that both Max and Steve Hindalong share with regard to their musical journeys. Max has established a developed a solo career by repeatedly stepping out of what is comfortable in favor of the undefined and unknown. Steve Hindalong, founding member and songwriter for the legendary alternative band The Choir, like Max, has sustained a musical career by routinely surveying the edges of what is possible and stepping over them on his own accord.

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Original review of The Warbler

Hindalong’s second solo release, The Warbleris a sincere, well-articulated, and vulnerable conversation that surveys the artist’s experiences, temptations, blessings, and resolutions. From the love and compassion that we feel for those we love as they struggle with life’s biggest trials (“Shellie’s Song” and “Cloudburst”), to the tensions aroused by temptation and addiction that so many battle with on a daily basis (“Into the Drink” and “Outta My Mind”), Hindalong exhibits his skill as a wordsmith, articulately dissecting the emotions of both himself and the listener, making sense of them in the form of songs that range in tone and tempo from nuanced and delicate folk tunes to unbridled rock vents complete with distorted feedback and tachometer-breaking jams. A personal favorite, for me, is “O Jimmy A,” a nod of tribute to artist/musician Jimmy Abegg. Like some of the other gentler songs on the album, the lyrics dance in combination with the song’s arrangement (which happens to feature the voice other-worldly voice of Kevin Max in the background) to create an almost ethereal sound – a real treat for the listener.

Both Max and Hindalong  masterfully articulated their experiences stepping through the dark shadows that exist in spite of, and because of, the existence of the light, on these albums, by assembling the right mix of studio musicians and production to compliment their own songwriting and performance sensibilities.

Anyone willing to invest some of their own time and pocket change in these latest reflections upon the life/musical journeys of Max and Hindalong, as featured on Playing Games With The Shadow and The Warblerwill likely be more than gratified with the comfort of commonality between the artists’ and their own stories.

Purchase PLAYING GAMES WITH THE SHADOW b y Kevin Max at Amazon, on iTunes, or at Kevinmax.com

Purchase THE WARBLER by Steve Hindalong at Amazon, on iTunes, or at TheChoir.net

THE WARBLER by Steve Hindalong – Music Review

b31301fbedf233b5f678f66ba57ded8bI first became familiar with Steve Hindalong as the drummer for THE LOST DOGS and THE CHOIR, two critically acclaimed bands with long track records of quality music leaning decidedly toward the freedom of classification that can be found under the umbrella of ‘alternative music.’ Considering the fact that my familiarity with the catalogs of THE LOST DOGS and THE CHOIR is relatively thin and the fact that THE WARBLER is Hindalong’s first solo album since 1998’s SKINNY, I really had no idea what to expect. But, I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised by the album over the last month or so.  My first good listen came while driving down the interstate as the sun was going down during the first leg of a long family road trip. I simply couldn’t have picked a better album in that context. Hindalong’s lyrics delightfully dance between celebrations of life, quiet introspection, and ruminations on relationships, faith, and personal demons. THE WARBLER is characterized by Hindalong’s skillful phrasing and honest vocal delivery which intertwine comfortably on a bed of lush, and skillfully arranged music. Artists like Lynn Arthur Nichols, Kevin Max, Dwayne Larring and Jimmy Abegg contribute to the project in a manner that truly enlightens the whole without simply being present in the mix for the sake of a name-dropping roll call. The song “Jimmy A,” released prior to the album as a whole, was the song that interested me in this project and it exhibits many of the best qualities of the album as a whole, but, there isn’t a single dud on this album. I could list each song and elaborate upon its merits, but the time that you spend reading my commentary which, surely, would fail to adequately articulate each track’s glory, would just delay the time between you reading this review and purchasing THE WARBLER for yourself. Because time spent holding beauty at bay in anyone’s life is a shame, I’ll end this review here so that you can do yourself the favor of acquiring THE WARBLER for yourself. You’re welcome.

Purchase THE WARBLER here:

iTunes

Amazon

The Choir Store

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