Somewhere In The Sierras

Written by: TL on 28/07/2015 13:02:52

If you have listened to Sacramento post-hardcore group A Lot Like Birds, you will already know that they are a pretty unusual musical prospect, yet this does not stop with their main band, as proven most recently by guitarist Michael Franzino's crowd-funded solo project alone. Aptly titled, alone.'s debut album "Somewhere In The Sierras" was created as a concept where Franzino would live alone in a cabin in the mountains for two months, channeling his emotions into his compositions completely without distractions. The result of Franzino's efforts is a more orchestral exploration of some of the nuances found at the very softest end of his main band's much more frenzied post-hardcore sound. Strings and ambiance feature as prominently in the reverb-laden soundscape as guitar, and the singing of Franzino and backup vocalist (and cello player) Danika McClure is frequently drenched in effects as well. The atmosphere is one of echoing sadness and dreamy grandeur, with high - often falsetto - singing, bringing to mind bands like Mew, Sigur Rós, Copeland and older Lydia as the most fitting comparisons.

Lyrically, Franzino's time spent in solitude has brought about some mixed results, and truthfully, the somewhat self-righteous opening lines of "Oh, did you go and catch some feelings? When you were staring at my ceiling? come off a bit petty considering the high drama the instrumental side has otherwise quickly established in first track "A Scopare Ma Non Sentire". Similarly, at the other end of the album, "Maternity Leave (Funeral March 28th)" takes a few staggering steps on the far side of self-pity, when Franzino's regretful goodbye to his mother includes some speculation as to whether her death was somehow his fault.

Between its two ends however, heralded by the rousing strings of third track "An Interlude For Andrew Dammar", the album gets simultaneously beautiful and painful, as Franzino's reflections on relationship issues get both gritty and poignant. The chiming guitar melodies of "Close Without Closure" channels Copeland and Mae and particularly the ringing lead under the ending climax that starts with "Think of this as a kiss blown from a distance" is a brilliant touch. Both guitar and bass in "Please Try" sound like something that could almost have been on a record by Springfield emo group Park, while the yearning "Caroline, I pine" is the kind of line Jonas Bjerre could have penned for a Mew single. The album's highlight is arguably found in the moody waltz of "More Fiend", however, where Sean Farnworth's delicate trumpet parts gently lift the soundscape into the stratosphere while Franzino hangs his doubts out to dry with the refrain "When I die, will you write on my grave, that I was almost great?"

Of the album's ten tracks, numbers three to eight bring about exactly the kind of unusual and immersive enchantment you really hope for when checking out a new album. As for the lumbering bleakness of the following rendition of "You Are My Sunshine" the twist on the song is cool, but using the age old lyrics to reflect Franzino's feelings of abandonment and disillusionment does feel like it takes a step away from the otherwise close and personal lyricism of the record's other songs. As mentioned, some of the lyrics invoke less sympathy than others, but once you get to know the cohesion of the album you could argue that it only provides good contrast that Franzino has left himself open to scrutiny in such a way.

Overall, the only firm point of criticism could be that Franzino singing voice is hardly extraordinary, and while there are layers and choir arrangements to reinforce him, the vocals on the album can occasionally sound a bit inferior to its grand and dramatic, instrumental arrangements. Other than that, "Somewhere In The Sierras" is an eclectic, unique and gratifying experience, more so the more of your attention you devote to it, offering ethereal, semi-orchestral music and gritty, anxiety-filled reflections that have the potential to seize you right in the feels.

Download: More Fiend; Close Without Closure; Redundant, Redundant
For The Fans Of: Sigur Rós, Mew, Lydia, Copeland, Dry The River

Release date 30.06.2015

Related Items | How we score?
comments powered by Disqus


© Copyright MMXXII