Mike Contoni – Here Comes The Weekend – Album Review
So what if it’s Monday! If you’re like me and truly believe that time itself is a human-construct and don’t want to be limited by those confines – then join me in listening to Here Comes The Weekend! Technically it’s not inaccurate to release this review before the weekend anyhow…title-wise, it’d be a lot stranger to have put this out on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday; at that point the weekend is already here. Why not give you the maximum amount of pre-weekend time to listen to Mike Contoni’s new album Here Comes The Weekend? I swear it makes much more sense to do it this way…
Mike makes no bones about being found in the easy-listening category or genres that align themselves with the term ‘adult contemporary’ – he thrives in these environments and atmospheres often adding a touch of Americana or southern-charm to the sound of the music you hear on Here Comes The Weekend. Glad to see him still creating at a rapid pace – it was only less than a year ago that we were first turned onto his music when we reviewed his album Start All Over Again and clearly, he’s been continuing on strongly writing & recording ever since! With 14 songs lining the grooves in his new record – Mike is certainly not finding himself short on ideas or time to make music these days – and that’s an inspiring time/place in life to be a musician for sure.
Beginning the album with the inviting music and reflective lyrics of “Baby Girl” – Mike’s made his easy-listening style true to its intentions as Here Comes The Weekend eases you in with its gentle opening. As always…any theories I might have to the content are exactly that – just theories – but if I had to wager a guess, I’d certainly be inclined to say this is written from the genuine perspective of father to daughter. “Baby Girl” uses memorable imagery in the words to create an audible family-photo album of sorts as Contoni begins the record by reflecting on the changes in life through the perspective of growing-up and watching the memories he’s making stack up beautifully over time. “Baby Girl” gives him a little bit of trouble in the lower-notes of his vocal-register…but nothing so troublesome that it becomes off-putting in any way. I think the sweetness of the intentions and ambitions of this album’s opening-tune outweigh anything else around it – even the impact of the guitar-work and its impressively emotional tones still take a backseat to the overall good-intentions of a tune like this.
The harmonies of “Baby Blue” also sound impressive – and you’ll hear that aspect of Mike’s music continue on strongly throughout the album, noticeably right away on “Dear John Via Text.” Riffing on a slight Country/Americana-rock style – you gotta hand it to the guy for his ability to create inviting atmospheres in his music. There are a couple moments when the verses come back in from the chorus where you almost wonder if Mike ever really wants to just let it all out and rock-out even more aggressively…but he seems to keep a professional control & restraint on ever getting too wild. “Dear John Via Text” sticks close to the roots of the style – and from the execution alone, you can hear the ability, skill and talent for this kind of music that Mike has…he sounds right at home here on “Dear John Via Text.” Though the lyrics contrast the comforting nature of the music with observations and tales of heartbreak in the modern-world – I’d still say the invitational pull to “Dear John Via Text” is completely appealing; I like the pacing, like Contoni’s vocals and think he’s got a great song here that offers a real, honest & relatable perspective on life & love.
Love the guitars that slide into the opening of “Here I Go Again” – and overall, this was definitely an early highlight on the record for myself personally. Mike’s put together a strong beginning to this new record that plays enjoyably…it’s easy-listening for sure, but never forget there’s a time & place for all kinds of music in life…and when you really listen to it as the soundtrack of your own life, you can find time for all kinds of moods, emotions, atmospheres & textures. I dig what Mike’s done here…the guitars come out sounding excellent in the solo and the harmonies have come out sounding fantastic.
The first official single as far as I can tell is “Livin In Paradise,” which also has a video to support it (check that out below). There’s some great elements to this song…it has real warmth to it through the island-style sounds in the music, which sound great. Mike’s got his rasp & growl creeping into this one a little bit too…I swear there’s a rocker inside this guy somewhere trying desperately to get out, but again, he keeps his cool throughout “Livin In Paradise” and calm enough to make the energy & atmosphere of the music. In a way it has that Randy Newman-esque sense of ‘this is what’s happening in life right here, right now’ or Jimmy Fallon slow-jammin’ the news for you…but we’ve all gotta write about something right? They say ‘write what you know’ – and if sunshine skies, massages and time to hit the bar are on the agenda…well…that’s a pretty nice problem to have isn’t it? I mean…lyrically-speaking, I would completely trade lives with Mike willingly if these are the days he’s living right now – it really does sound like “Livin In Paradise.”
The hits are one thing…and we all have a soft-spot for those songs that bring the energy out in us like “Livin In Paradise” does with its uplifting sound…but to me, another thing entirely are those soft, tender and authentic moments like you’ll find Mike involved in on “There For Me.” Another highlight early-on in the record…it features the strong harmonies that fuel the choruses of much of the record, but also some extremely awesome melodies in the verse and tones in the guitar. Great solo that fits this song perfectly, lyrically sweet and full of passion & love…definitely some of the strongest ideas and most-realized melody Mike’s brought to his new record here on “There For Me” – I might have cut the final moments of vocals maybe…but at the same time it brings the live-element of music to the recording.
Mike switches between gears throughout much of his songwriting on this album to both highlight the present-day and memories he’s made throughout his lifetime. Using characters and names to support the emotions, imagery and feelings in the words; “Yesterday Gone By” details the struggle of getting older, missed opportunities and eventual redemption. Contoni nearly heads into a more nasal Neil Young style in his voice throughout the verse…and of course that’s a sound that’s going to work for some more than others with it being so pronounced & distinct. Putting the sweetened harmonies in the background to compliment the main-vocals has been working well for Mike throughout Here Comes The Weekend and continues to do so here on “Yesterday Gone By” to bring out the melody even more.
“Miss Kissing You” has another tender & gentle atmosphere working well for Mike, despite the forlorn and melancholy of the lyrics. “Miss Kissing You” is definitely a song I think about 99% of us or more out there can relate to…I’m a guy that tends to get pretty nostalgic for the days past even though I live a perfectly enjoyable life in the present. I miss those days where love was still new, feelings were still yet to be discovered and relationships came & went; despite the inducing of heartbreak – I still say I’d go back and live each and every moment again if I could. The piano, drums and guitar work together flawlessly on “Miss Kissing You” while Mike sings sweetly of days gone by and loves long lost. I completely get where he’s coming from here and I’m certain that many of you out there will too.
A salute to his past and peers through “Thank You For Your Service” – Mike puts rhythm into the words & melody while still taking this easy-listening tune into somewhat progressive terrain. While he might get branded with that easy-listening moniker a lot – there’s also no denying just how much instrumentation tends to creep into his music as well, which isn’t necessarily a typical trait of the genre. In that sense…Mike shows just as much respect to the musicians and music on a song like “Thank You For Your Service” as he does for the men & women of the military in tribute. Here the spoken-word ending worked for me…I think that not only has Mike managed to put together a meaningful song that reflects the sincerity of his gratitude, but I think that also taking that moment at the end to say it directly hits home. After a lifetime of his own dedicated service to his country…you can already assume he means every word he’s written here…but again, taking that extra time to really let us know resonates right to our core – there’s no more assumption after that…you feel the words, the authenticity and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s truly thankful. In terms of subject, writing and lyrics – “Thank You For Your Service” is unique to the rest of the set of songs as well…or at least more direct & pointed through the words…but it does a great job of adding new themes to the music on Here Comes The Weekend.
Never made it any kind of secret that I’m more or less done with blues-anything…definitely not Mike’s fault. Put it to you this way…I appreciate the genre’s contribution…I won’t actively ever turn it off…it’s just very rare that I hear anything done in a blues-song ever that strikes me as something new. Isn’t that how the whole anecdote really reads anyway – something borrowed, something blue(s)? The genre has built itself upon a precarious house of cards and a premise that those fans will always be fans of the sound without having to further mine or innovate the sounds of the genre for more…and I just don’t know about that. I get tradition…I get keeping to the roots…I swear, I get all that…but I think there’s always a way to evolve as well – even when sticking to the guidelines. I can profess to really liking the way “Bottom Of The Bottle Blues” kicks in and how it starts perfectly with the harmonica and piano…and it’s not like Mike doesn’t wear this outfit well – he sounds really good. My beef isn’t so much with him as it is the genre itself…I’d personally consider this to be a really great blues song…but in doing so, also feel like I’d have to admit that EVERY song in the blues is a great song then, wouldn’t I? I’ll say this…Mike sounds right in the pocket here…I’m personally happy that he explores much, much more terrain on this new record than just blues-riffs – but at the same time I can acknowledge a sound/style he pulls off convincingly, and this certainly sounds like the real deal. Piano in this cut deserves an extra high-five for its incredible meandering, wandering, soloing and always finding its way back…its attitude is aloof, wild and addictive to listen to on “Bottom Of The Bottle Blues.”
Sometimes when the music gets smoother, you notice other things happening. For example…”Mrs. Hooch” is a track where I’d like to grab Mike and shake him a little bit…not because I think he needs his cage rattled, but because I think you can hear a little bit of stiffness in the shoulders on the performance of this tune as he continues to conform to a rigid melody-line. The melody as he’s written it is solid…but you can hear the audible sound of pacing where he’s waiting for that next moment to start, you can hear points where the words also have a hard time fitting into that metering…and the whole time, the music of “Mrs. Hooch” is flowing completely solidly around him! So…yeah…in my opinion, some of the more loosened-up moments from Mike would have fit the vibe of “Mrs. Hooch” a little bit better…a lot less concentration and a lot more ‘feelin’ it’ for the performance would bring this track up right to where it needs to be. ‘Cause don’t get me wrong – there’s a strong song written here…Mike’s got a great idea that can definitely work…over time and repetition of playing it, I think that more relaxed vibe will come from the sheer confidence of knowing the material inside & out but I’ve got no doubt about whether or not he’s written a good song here – he has indeed.
On the technical-front of the lyrics, pacing and framing inside the pace of the music, he runs into a few of those same issues on “Mrs. Hooch” on “Something Good” as well in its verse – BUT…to his credit, this time it does sound like he’s back to feeling those words. “Something Good” also has the advantage of more personalized lyrics…and you can hear the difficulties that come along with a lifetime of service in relation to time and living a life shared with loved ones. Mike’s searching for “Something Good” about that time spent away…and I think even despite his positive experiences in service, it’s also insightful to acknowledge that any time we spend away from our loved ones is truly an expense at the same time. Good sway to the gentle sound of “Something Good” though…really does sound like the audible form of self-reflection and I dig the sincerity that comes with it.
“Right Person Wrong Time” worked really well. What I liked best about this track was that from verse to chorus, I really thought Mike chose to go left instead of right here in a true surprise for the writing. The verse is much more low-key…you kind of assume Contoni is going to stick it out at that pace and grind out a slow-burning intensity throughout the entire length of the track – but the chorus comes out kickin’ and really amps up the energy to levels this record has yet to bring out in him. Even with its country/Americana sound/style – you can’t hide the punk-rock attitude & overtones to the writing itself…and as a result, time flies quickly on a less-than three-minute tune from Mike. A departure from the writing we’ve heard so far and a good switch in the energy in the late stages of the record.
Firmly on the right track and flowing along smoothly into final two tracks, “Here Comes The Weekend” claims its titular-status with confidence – great tune! Kind of in that Dire Straits & John Mellancamp vein of songwriting – this title-track is completely enjoyable through and through. Great harmonies and energy in the vocals, great guitars full of beautiful bright tones and excellent solo-riffs, great uplifting vibe to the entire song & sound; I’ve often said that the title-track can be a downfall for an artist on a record – but Mike’s shining in the warm-glow of the music on “Here Comes The Weekend.” It’s got a familiar feel to it all which makes it comforting and inviting to listen to…and I also think Mike puts enough ‘Mike’ into this one to really make it sound all his own. Certainly a highlight on the record and worthy of the album’s crown.
Ending the record with some of the best guitar tones and sounds you’ll hear on the whole album, “Saltwater Tears” makes for a satisfying ending. I definitely feel like Mike’s gotten a lot of mileage out of the songs on this record and has really managed to express a ton of genuine feelings throughout the album’s span. Great mix of emotions on Here Comes The Weekend…and even though he’s chosen to end the record on a more downtrodden-theme like “Saltwater Tears” – the idea comes through shining against the piano/guitar/bass/drum-combo and the writing really allows the song to evolve, breathe, grow and expand as it builds towards the final moments of the album. Life isn’t always about happy moments filled with sunshine anyhow…and I think Mike’s done a great job of representing the multi-dimensional layers to the feelings we share and experience on “Saltwater Tears.”
He’s put out many good ideas on Here Comes The Weekend and I’ll be sharing more thoughts on Mike Contoni on both SBS Live This Week and the SBS Podcast later today – so be sure to tune in to those to find out more about this easy-listening artist and gain more insight into what’s happening in his music!
But until then…find out more about Mike Contoni at the official links below!