“For those who lunch alone, welcome to radio.”
Mikel Rouse’s Gravity Radio song cycle is instantly understandable yet inexplicably hard to explain. I was incredibly psyched to get this disc and have listened to it quite regularly over the last 6 weeks or so. It is a favorite of mine (and the whole house, for that matter, but I blogged about that already). Playing this album for some of my students, they asked “Who is Mikel Rouse?” I think the best answer would be “Mikel Rouse is today’s Schubert with better operas.” That just about covers it.
“Love comes to those who wait. Those who wait for me.”
The songs that make up this cycle all sound like effortless, high quality popular music. Why songs like “Wait For Me” and “I’m So Blue” aren’t on the radio, I’ll never know. Binding the songs together are several AP new reports enmeshed with lyrics and other wonderful statements spoken with perfect inflection by Veanne Cox. There is a veritable Gordion Knot of material here. The disc is cyclic with melodic, textual, and rhythmic returns of events.
“If you multiply my disappointment by the world, you’ll see what I mean. Multiply that by the animals eaten.”
The sound quality on the disc is amazing. What sounds effortless is actually some of the most nuanced and intricately orchestrated music I’ve encountered recently. Every listen brings out something new, like Christina Pawl’s trumpet playing. There are times when you hear the trumpet but there are times when she is tucked into the texture. With the exception of those that I’ve already mentioned and Penelope Thomas’ backing vocals, Mikel Rouse performs everything. Not only is he Schubert, he rivals Wagner in gesamtkunstwerk.
“I look at human beings and I see a freak show.”
The best thing about this music is how complicated the songs are without sounding Complicated. “I’m So Blue” is a rather weird song in many respects but you don’t know that when you hear it. Rouse’s lyrics are so smart and tight in the verses that when the chorus is a simple “I’m so blue/that I love you” you can rest assured that he has exhausted any other way he might have had of saying the same thing. “I’m So Blue” is also in a 7 beat meter but I didn’t realize that for about a month of repeated listening. Other favorites of mine are “Wait For Me,” “Silence of Sound,” “Star Chamber/Rose Woods,” “Stay in School,” and “The World Got Away.”
The songs are catchy, appealing, and detailed that you will be singing them to yourself for a while (my 4-year-old daughter was singing “Silence of Sound” in the tub the other night). You will also be mining the lyrics and such for Facebook and Twitter posts. Chuck Norris wins. Some songs are harder to get into. “Yawn Factory” was a tough sell on my ears but I’m into it now. I’m not a fan of “Blue Book,” but I couldn’t quite tell you why. When I try, I end up telling you everything that I LIKE about “Star Chamber/Rose Woods.” Galen Brown’s testimonial from last month can shed more light on this excellent disc.
“I’ve traded knowledge for tape decks and beer.”
I will point out that, with the holidays coming up, you have a music lover that would dig this disc a lot. Everyone knows someone who will love this. Do them the favor and pick up a copy for yourself. Chuck Norris wins.