Andy Michael – If We Try – EP Review
A lot of passion and a lot of potential here on Andy Michael’s debut EP, If We Try. Everything I’ve learned about him and listened to suggests that he’s a humble singer/songwriter that puts his heart & soul into his music…he’s a very likeable guy whether it’s in communication behind the scenes or the inviting sound you’ll hear in his songs. Sincerity comes radiantly through the music, lyrics and vocals of the four-tracks + bonus-cut on his new EP – and I think that’s what makes the most impact on us as listeners after checking out this record thoroughly. Like many debuts out there – there are definitely some rough-edges here…some that work highly in Andy’s favor and spin his raw instincts, choices and decisions into pure gold…some that show room for him to continue to grow, refine and evolve through the experience he’ll gain from releasing If We Try into the world. I can tell that at the heart of it all – Andy is a genuinely good guy, looking to share his experiences and insights through music with the rest of the world in hopes that somewhere out there in a sea full of songs…these will make a connection to someone at just the right time when they need it most, like a message in a bottle awaiting its discovery.
Just don’t get it twisted at the end of the day…I support what Andy’s doing…I think as he continues to write, record and play, that experience is going to add up to the success he’s looking for in music – and right now, he’s off to a great start on his way towards realizing his full potential with If We Try.
So…first impressions…”Never Met Someone Like You” is the opening tune and you get to hear the sweet intentions & sentiment along with the sincerity of Andy’s music right away. I think the gentle acoustic rhythm is well thought-out and supports the melody in his vocals really well; it’s got a solid evolution in its structure and in just 2:18, Andy establishes the impact you want to make in the early stages of a record with a song that really grows and expands. For the most part, he keeps the ingredients simple and intimate in their sound, then all of a sudden towards the end of the cut, he launches into a nearly Sigur Ros-like moment that really highlights the breathtaking potential he’s really got in full bloom. Consider the confidence it takes to write this moment at the 1:37 mark and diversify the sound of this track so boldly and so quickly – there’s no doubt in my mind that we ALL as listeners want MORE of this part of the song…like…a LOT MORE of it – but that’s also a spectacular reason to continue to return to this tune. Andy makes a few stylistic choices in his vocals that you can hear climbing to hit their mark; there are also a few spots where the chords and vocals meet to create a dissonant sound between them as a result of their contrast…these are things that will naturally smooth themselves out over time and disappear completely as he gains more confidence and trusts that his organic instincts will lead him in the right direction. To be clear – I don’t hear Andy pulling punches…he’s giving his all to this opening track and delivering really well throughout a challenging melody to sing…but I think you’ll agree when you hear it that the more he branches out, the bolder and more precise he becomes. Like in that 1:37 moment I referred to…LISTEN to that spot…he’s up in the highest parts of his falsetto there and taking massive chances where he could have kept this entire tune plenty simple – but it’s in the pursuit of something more that stunning results like that are truly achieved. Even spots like right around the one-minute mark with the added harmonies coming through so boldly, or how they subtly sink into the background later on as the track plays…you can hear Andy’s got great ideas. Watching out for where those layers collide or the stylistic approach to his vocals drifts too far…that self-editing factor…that’s where he’s got the most room to improve – but whatever, we’ve all got room to improve somewhere. What’s important is that the real sincerity and powerful emotion of Andy’s performance is there…you can feel that connection to the song, lyrics & music through how he approaches “Never Met Someone Like You” & I think despite a few quirks, the majority of this track displays his sound in a beautiful light.
These “Things Take Time” – you see? That’s all I’m saying. Andy’s got the right starting blocks to build something incredible…that’s what matters. He’s kind of like a one-man version of The Decemberists – a good mix of folk/indie with pop-inclinations. “Things Take Time” is a good example of an artist still in the process of finding his voice – nothing wrong with that, we all come from somewhere and we all discover our potential, passion and process over time. What’s going right for him is in the writing itself. The ideas are great, the hooks are strong and once again, he’s got a great melody in the works here. I think the lower-register of his vocals give him a bit of trouble at the beginning…nothing horrendous, just enough that it gives you that hint that Andy is still figuring out the best way to approach each moment as they come at him. Years down the road, a song like “Things Take Time” will come naturally to him at every twist & turn of the melody…that slight trepidation will be gone and be replaced by bold, assured tones that know they’re right in the place they’re supposed to be. What I can tell you is that Andy’s vocals get progressively better in this song from its beginning to end – you can hear him find the right gear and lock in his spot from the first pre-chorus & forward. Chorus-wise, I think he’s got a really solid set of hooks working for him and I think he delivers that melody spot-on right where he wants it to be. Even in the rawest spots of Andy’s vocals, a lot of it comes off sounding so passionate and genuine that you end up accepting them fairly easily as part of his charm.
Now…as far as I know from keeping my ear to the ground for the skinny on what’s goin’ down – “Ocean Breeze” is the proposed lead-single for Andy Michael’s If We Try EP – rumor has it there’s a Kickstarter campaign in the works for supporting the upcoming video. I’ll say this…I honestly don’t think there’s any real wrong decision here with what he might choose to put out there; but perhaps what gives “Ocean Breeze” the edge is the level of execution and consistency in Andy’s performance. Otherwise…I might actually advise a bit of caution here – “Ocean Breeze” is fairly progressive in its structure and ideas…it might be indie/folk but make no mistake, this is actually a pretty demanding track for people to listen to. It’s the kind of song that acts like one big hook…and in that sense, you could end up with a polarizing cut that some people love and others don’t feel as strongly about; those people looking for the verse/chorus/verse will have to dig a bit harder to really understand how this track moves along. So…potentially a chance being taken here by Andy…but again, one that could pay off for him if the people out there ‘get it’ – which can be a lot harder to predict. I think he without a doubt has some of his best moments here vocally…he’s put real flair and melody into his tone & movement, adding in great emotion and energy into each part of “Ocean Breeze.”
There IS one moment of “Ocean Breeze” that will make you question his decisions a bit…or at least, it made me question the direction a little. Within that final minute of “Ocean Breeze” you can hear the production levels rise, which is fine, sometimes that adds the dynamics and punch you want into the mix…in the switch of this one, it’s almost the anti-hero of the song – it makes you want that mix and clarity to have occurred in the rest of the cut, or at least, it did for me. What made the experience stranger though, would be that I’d go back to the beginnings of “Ocean Breeze” and then really like the way it sounded again…it wasn’t until that final moment that you kind of realize perhaps how strong it could have all been the whole way through, but until you get there you just don’t notice that at all. That make any sense to anyone out there? Hope so. I don’t know…it’s an interesting track…I think “Ocean Breeze” has a lot going for it even though the hooks aren’t necessarily the most straight-ahead, it’s still got a charismatic amount of personality and pull to it…still accessible despite the demands it asks of us. I’d be interested in hearing what the entire track would sound like in the shining light of the song’s final minute production-wise…it might make all the difference in the world, but it also could potentially affect the humble way this song comes across. Great guitar parts, smart piano accompaniment and really good ideas in the way the vocals flow in their melody, sung with heart, personality and quality.
Each song has certainly shown his redeeming qualities and capabilities along the way – like I’ve been saying from the moment this began, it’s all about potential here on If We Try…but you can hear that it’s potential within reach the entire time. The right ingredients, ideas and imagination are here…you can hear the sincerity and genuine WANT to do what Andy’s doing at all times throughout this record – and I think that counts for a lot. It’s because of that sincerity that Andy has people like me rooting for him to meet that potential…because ultimately, you can hear from the songs on this EP and their most stunning moments that he WILL continue to grow and evolve as a songwriter at a rapid rate. Musically, I think he’s locked down his style, sound and approach and consistently executes his ideas really well…vocally, I think he’s still got a few spots he needs to focus on and get right into the zone to get the very best out of himself. The EP’s title-track “If We Try” would benefit from another run or two in the studio on the vocals…there are times where you can hear just enough of the energy leave the words that it affects the cadence & tone…and he’s gotta be vigilant on behalf of his own performances to know where he can push himself for more. He’s proven himself to be more than capable on so many of the moments in the songs on this EP along the way…it’s about retaining that focus and keeping the energy consistent to bring tracks like this one to the level they need to get to. Because I’ll say this…”If We Try” could easily be the album’s most powerful song…I think the hooks are the most accessible and the ideas all fit really well together…I think there are extraordinary victories along the way as well like the breakdown of the EP’s title-track…the brilliant melody of the beginning lines in the chorus…that’s the awesome stuff. The latter half of the chorus with dragging out the words is probably the clearest example of where I’m saying he’d want to re-examine as to whether or not he could squeeze just a bit more juice out of himself and into the microphone for that perfect amount of sweetness he’s looking to serve up. As it stands…”If We Try” still wins me over with its charm…I might personally want a bit more out of Andy here at times, but at others, he hits the mark exactly as I’d hope he would. Bottom line is that strong ideas exist all over the place on “If We Try” and so does a melody that sincerely connects; it’s definitely a song worth pursuing and still one of the most beautiful overall moments on this EP without question.
The bonus track on this EP called “Books” gives a further glimpse into what Andy’s capable of. With a rhythmically inclined light-funk & groove to the acoustic sound of this final cut, he shows another side of his sound and also puts out one of his strongest hooks so far with the chorus on “Books.” Lyrically, I get where he’s going with it…I’m honestly not entirely sold on the main idea for the chorus, but I get it. Throughout the verse though, and through the climb of the vocals of the chorus too – he really does put on a verbally impressive display of lyricism and can really pack a lot of vivid imagery into his words. A song about relationships and the impressions we make on each other…he’s put a lot of personal insight into his words throughout this EP and been real with us on a down-to-earth level the whole time – and I think people will appreciate that humbleness in his approach. Andy writes from a real and relatable place and describes what he’s feeling through his words extremely well…”Books” is a highlight example of that, but really, all the songs on the EP showcase this main element of his own signature style. “Books” kind of loosens-up a bit…not really sure how to describe that, but it’s satisfying…kind of shows that he could even go right down the same path as Ed Sheeran one day if he wants to – and who wouldn’t? Dude’s on top of the world right now…and the amount of potential that exists in Andy Michael could definitely lead him to that same level of success if he continues to round-out the corners and focus, focus, focus. I maintain he’s got all the right ingredients to make it happen and I’d be willing to bet he’s the kind of artist that will noticeably improve on his own sound & style each and every time we hear something new from him. When he rises to his potential, he’ll find even more awaits him and he’ll likely rise to that occasion too – an artist like this gets better and better the longer they’re around.
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