Thursday, May 12, 2022
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Friday, April 29, 2022
Well, here's a fun find for all of you CMT readers. Singer and Songwriter Andrea Pizzo is teamed up with a talented group of musicians calling themselves "The Purple Mice" with an LP concept album "about the universe" as their website puts it. "Potatoes on Mars" features 11 songs of upbeat goodness primarily revolving around a rock n' roll attitude (which earns big plusses in my book).
The first track is "Keep on Searching" in which we get to hear Pizzo's amazing high range - I mean, really, when was the last time heard glam-rock style wails? The rhythm section kills it in these minor verses and major choruses. The guitar is spacey and reverby which is a perfect sound for songs about "space." We're also treated to a shredding guitar solo towards the end of the track.
Next up is "Song of Nothing." It begins with languid and meditative pads + guitar. The sound is very ballad, and again, we're treated to Andrea's voice, which is especially catchy in the chorus. I'm really enjoying the keyboard sounds (very reminiscent of early 90's Yamaha pads; I would be super curious to know what they used for this). I'm always impressed by rock acts that can do drumless tracks well, which "Song of Nothing" pulls off effortlessly.
And if you were missing the drums from "Song of Nothing," don't worry, because track #3 "Among the Stars" blasts a percussive intro right in your ear-holes. There is a beautiful funky personality to this one that is super dancable. The bassline and wah guitar keep a groove that just won't quit. "Among the Stars" absolutely belongs in your party playlist.
Track #4 is the title track of the album "Potatoes on Mars." The track is just as much fun as it sounds like. There's a hint of Bright Eyes "Bowl of Oranges" in the ingredients list here. Of course, I'm a fan of the Hammond Organ sounds and polka-like bassline. The vocals are a bit folk mixed with pop with really imaginative lyrics.
Moving on from the title track we have "Jupiter and the Gallelian Moons." We are met with an epic orchestral sound with what sounds like Sci-fi film spoken samples. This song is a beast that comes in at just under 10 minutes in length. I quite like how it moves between moods, movements, and to a large degree, even genres. From the orchestral intro to the electronic/vocal beginning of the song, there's a lot to explore here. Probably the most interesting thing is that Pizzo's voice behaves much more like an instrument in the band as opposed to "lead singer."
In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm really appreciating the titles of these songs. And the sixth up; "Go Fishing in the Ocean of Enceladus." It's quite a heartfelt piece (think The Cure meets Mr. Children). The contrasting section of this song is more upbeat and has a similar character to "Among the Stars." Before long though we're back to the heartfelt serenading of Andrea's voice (we even get to hear some of his lower registers in this one).
"Pale Blue Dot" (I'm imagining a song about Earth) might very well be my favorite of the batch - there is a very folk-song structure going on over Brazilian hand percussion style beats - well, that is until it breaks into the chorus. In a lot of ways, it's art-rock - which is evidenced by yet another contrasting section with rapid-fire guitar rhythms and rapid-er lyrics. Mix in more samples and a killer synth lead and I can firmly say I've never heard anything like this before.
Track #8 is "Goldilocks Zone," the area of a solar system where a life-bearing planet can live. We're back to a very folk sound - but tempered with melodic and bending bass. The addition of a flute (or flute synth, I can't quite tell) really makes the song. In this track Pizzo's voice almost has a musical theater quality (which again, earns high marks from me, as you all know I'm a huge Broadway nerd).
Next up is "Masters of the Galaxy" (and here I was really hoping that this was going to have a He-Man reference since it was my favorite cartoon growing up - but I'm getting sidetracked). Pulsating synths and pad sounds which are so beautiful - but as I listened, I wondered if it was just an intro or if this kind of mood was going to continue through the song. Much to my delight, the synth is featured throughout the whole song. Better yet, we don't have to give up the pulsating rock that has occupied the rest of the album. "Masters of the Galaxy" really shows the caliber of musicians that the Purple Mice really are.
The penultimate track (#10) is Road to Universe, which brings us back to the glam sound I heard in #1. If I'm not mistaken I think I'm hearing some irregular meters here. Or, it could just be the syncopations in the rhythms. All I can really say is "the groove is infectious" and "Pizzo's voice is unbelievable."
The album ends with "Starship to Heaven" which features a string-quartet-like synth. the song has a sentimental major quality which is perfect for a concept album. It's proof that quality musicians know when to show off, and when to hold back. It's just like your band teacher always used to say "sometimes it's about the notes you don't play." But if it's virtuosity you desire, don't worry, there's another killer guitar solo before the final chorus.
All in all, "Potatoes on Mars" was an ambitious project, and Pizzo and all his Purple Mice should be quite proud of themselves. There is a lot of meat on the bone that is this album and I'll be very curious to hear what's next from these folks.