David Omlor – Entropy – Album Review
On solid ground & shaky emotional terrain!
And ya get’em both – all in one! Right here in this first impression of David’s music, if you’re like myself and haven’t heard it before this record Entropy here, that’ll likely be what hits you instantly – it’s really well-assembled Folk/Rock, but man does it sound like things are in a fragile place for Omlor overall when you dig into the words of “Falling All Apart” as the album begins. Just keep in mind, depending on where you’re listening from, the set-list may vary in how it all flows. I’m sittin’ here with a different version than the one you’ll find on his official site right now, but I’ve also got a couple bonus tunes as a result…so I’m stickin’ with the one I’ve got, and “Falling All Apart” is the first cut coming through my speakers over here. This is actually a pretty common occurrence in behind the scenes here…but if you know where to look, you get more music…and I tend to always choose that particular path when/if I can. Tons to dig on this cut…I love the production and the distance in the guitars, I love the presence in the drums, I love the sweetness in the harmonies & the bold melody in the way David sings the lead on “Falling All Apart” – and for a solid, what…at least two-minutes or so…I thought to myself, right on, I’m gonna enjoy listening to this quaint record right here…and then just about as soon as I thought that, the most crucial moment of the vocals & harmonies all having their moment in the sun comes around just afterwards and completely resets the whole standard and my thinking about what I’d be in-store for. Because that right there folks, is one genuinely memorable moment and a huge highlight that takes place right in the middle of “Falling All Apart” that served up a spectacular first impression of this record.
You know…I’ve read this dude’s own humble assessment of who Omlor is at his core…and…well…in fact, lemme share it with you. “I am simply a freakishly average, middle aged, bald man that has been writing and performing songs as a form of self-therapy for my entire adult life.” And SURE…you can believe that along with him if you like…but I can’t imagine anyone listening to “Ghosts In Oklahoma” is going to take his side on that completely…to me, I know it’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek comment, but the reality is he’s selling himself massively short and the songwriting of this second cut alone would confirm that to any set of ears listening. I mean…this is just a pure example of everything going right when the red light of the studio is on and it’s time to record, I don’t know how else to put it…you couldn’t ask more from any of the hands on deck here – “Ghosts In Oklahoma” is what it sounds like when you get the maximum potential outta your vocals, music, production, and performances. It’s a gritty song with real edge to it, but smoother-than-smooth in the way it’s played…but you’ll get what I mean when you listen…it’s a meaty tune with a tale to be told, and the vibrant passion & focus of which it’s played with in combination with its important storyline details really has us listening intently, and genuinely interested in what we find. David flexes really incredible depth in his songwriting here that draws on a significant injustice from history’s past, and puts a story that should be known, right to the forefront of our minds by creating awareness & an absolutely gripping & entertaining cut in the process.
Breaking all the rules and my OCD need for symmetry & logic, “It Ain’t Over V2” comes before the first part on this particular makeshift set-list that I’m rocking with…and…I’ll come to terms with that, eventually…maybe. David’s overall versatility is very reminiscent of artists like Baerwald, Clapton, Robertson…artists that have taken on similarly soulful paths & journeys exploring a vast array of highly natural sounds & stunning instrumentation to go along with the gruff wisdom in their voices…those unpredictable artists that keep things fresh in all kinds of ways…and the result is always an adventurous experience that genuinely takes us somewhere else as listeners – which I personally dig on & I’m sure you do too. It’s important to note that the labels are truthful – these are the same song at its core, served up in two remarkably different ways. And it’s a GREAT move, because man, I love BOTH of these songs when it comes right down to it…errr…one song…I mean, it’s TWO experiences, so that counts for two songs right? That horn solo in “It Ain’t Over V2” though! And the brilliantly bass-lines & gentle guitars…the incredibly vibrant percussion…the laidback cool of David as he sings this like a beat poet…it all stacks up NICELY. Now I know I don’t NEED to pick favorites…I can love them both if I wanna, and truly I do. But since he’s gone and put “V2” of “It Ain’t Over” to mess with me in this unofficial set-list I’m rockin’ over here, I’m gettin’ my revenge and just gonna proclaim part one as being where the magic is REALLY at. “It Ain’t Over V2” is solid stuff – don’t get me wrong – but when you hit the chorus of “It Ain’t Over” you’ll know exactly what I mean – it’s beyond a highlight, it’s one of the biggest hooks you’ll hear burst open on this whole record. I love everything about this song if I’m being real with ya…I think it makes a solid pass at a psych-60s vibe as it starts out, and if I’m not mistaken, there’s even a slight nod to Jimi in the lyrics you’ll find to draw that out even further. “It Ain’t Over” is hardly limited to any one style or sound though…all-in-all, it’s a remarkably impressive hybrid & I’d pretty much be shocked to find anyone out there that didn’t find this to be as accessible as it truly is, in either of its forms. What I will guarantee is that it’s bound to even slip past a few people out there that they’re listening to the same song at its fundamental core, just served up in two glorious versions that are totally different – but it’s a testament to how many changes have been made so significantly that it could fool people in that regard. The instrumentation is so vivid and wonderful, I can’t even begin to explain – but hearing the magic in this chorus…there’s just little left to be said than it’ll provide ya with the biggest hook on all of Entropy.
The downside that can tend to come along with such a supreme highlight on a record, is that what follows might not end up making the impact it should – and for me, that was probably the case when it came to “Let You Know.” Not a bad tune by any measure at all really…in fact, it’s quite pleasant & sweet & charming & all that good stuff – but it wasn’t THAT moment before, you dig? It wasn’t that same magic I just experienced all throughout “It Ain’t Over” – it was a well-assembled song of which I have no substantial complaints about, but it didn’t have that jaw-dropping moment of WOW like the chorus of the song just prior did. So you see what I’m sayin’ folks? Not necessarily David’s fault at all…”Let You Know” is still a decent song by all accounts, but anything would have had a real tough time standing out after “It Ain’t Over” just beforehand. I think he’s done well and chosen as best he could from the lineup of songs that follow…it would have been hard for any song to really fit that spot on the record; and ultimately, that speaks more to the real strength of the performance & writing throughout “It Ain’t Over” than anything else could. On the lineup posted at his homepage for Entropy, it’s actually “Falling All Apart” that ends up coming afterwards…which is like…I mean…we’ve got two of my favorite moments coming back-to-back when it flows like that…and to think that the brilliance of that powerfully unified spot around the two-minute mark of “Falling All Apart” could be overshadowed by just how memorable the chorus of “It Ain’t Over” is…well that frightens me, straight up, because I don’t want y’all to miss out. “Let You Know” kind of hits that sweet spot of a song that’s really good, but doesn’t end up trying to one-up the amazingness you just heard beforehand…all-in-all, there’s plenty of good-time vibes to be found here at the heart of the music & hooks that are guaranteed to connect to listeners for sure.
I think a lot of people will dig on “Overflow,” which actually appears at the end of the set on the official posting at David’s homepage…it definitely works well as a conclusion, but like the vast majority of what I’ve found here on this record, these tunes are good for any ol’ time. “Overflow” starts up with natural sound and rain falling, before it eventually subsides to let the glow of the melody & vocals warm ya back up. Moments like where David’s vocals will come through at their boldest like just after the two-minute mark work brilliantly after the gentle way the harmonies are sung, or how you can hear the production flips back & forth from what’s been done directly in the studio, to what sounds like it’s been authentically recorded outside in the pouring rain. Excellent combination of piano & guitar tones to listen to that draw out the heart of this melody…”Overflow” is likely the album’s quietest moment in time and low-key cut overall…but when combined with that organic rain sound bookending the start & finish, it really has great definition to it as its own unique tune on this record unlike any other you’ll find.
“Percy’s Song” has a ton of depth to its lyricism and strikes a more dramatic tone as David sings the verses of this tune, lightening up in the way he’ll sing the chorus to echo the inspiration behind the words. Love the piano accent on the melody of this song, the steady bass-lines, and the gentle sway the whole melody has to it…”Percy’s Song” is a highlight example of catching our attention without having to punch us in the face to get it – this is just straight-up stellar songwriting and interesting to listen to. Almost like a Van Morrison-esque vibe to a song like this at points along the way, especially in the melody of David’s vocals as he sings the main hooks here…but once again, it’d be tough to pin Omlor down to any one reference or comparison…he drifts close to similarities of many classics & legends he’s likely grown up loving himself, and naturally that influence always coming shining through the music we all make as artists in some way, shape, or form. Fantastic tone outta the guitar here as well, and tons of awesome chops on display if you’re listening real close…not just great technique, but also major personality to be found in the musicianship. Verse versus chorus? I think both main elements of this tune have their own individual strengths, and I think David’s done an exceptional job of threading them together…it’d be hard to pick the best moment out of a cut like “Percy’s Song” when really, it’s all good. Across the board, “Percy’s Song” comes out one of the most balanced between its parts; from the lyrics to the music, vocals to the ideas itself, David ends up really locking into the magic for this tune and gets a stellar performance out of all concerned once again. Dude’s a remarkable songwriter – that’s a fact.
I love spots like what you’ll hear around the ninety-second mark on “Surprised” where the music gets to have its own moment in the spotlight, however brief or long it might be in between the vocals. There’s a lot of fantastic musicianship on this record that deserves equal credit for how these songs have turned out in the end. David gives us a bit more of a mixed-bag here if I’m being truthful, when it comes to the vocals. For the most-part, I really like what I hear – and heck, I’d even say there are significant highlights in the way he’s sung it at points along the way…but nearly like a Bowie tune there can also be that hint of a layer or two that seems to clash & get in the way of the full sweetness of the melody’s potential. “So now I sing this song, but the melody’s all wrong” – his words, not mine! I wouldn’t go nearly that far at all…ultimately, I’m still more than onboard with this tune at the end of the day, and especially the idea itself. Things can always be tweaked back & forth here & there from now until the end of time, but if y’ain’t got an idea to begin with, it’d all be pointless – Omlor writes material well worth fighting for. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this one gets away from him at all whatsoever, but I do think it’s missing a little bit of something in that magic that every other track on this record seems to have somehow. I never ended up skipping past it or even coming close to feeling like I should, it’s still a really good tune, just perhaps not quite as polished as some of the rest in this set or played with as much noticeable flair.
Smart production on “Truth” really helps the music stand out even in the subtlest moments – listen to the spectacular distance on the guitars in relation to the vocals or the piano keys when they show up. Highly effective…same thing with the really low-key harmonies that I’m hearing hear too…so low-key and on the inside of the mix that you even have to do a double-take at times, wondering if you were just hearing that in your head and not actually in the song itself. It is very much on the songwriter-y spectrum of the scale, but ultimately that’s where David is looking to fit himself in…I like the tale he’s woven into the fabric of this song, but definitely feel like there were examples of cuts throughout this record that exposed a deeper personal connection between him & the music & words & all that. Again, if it sounds like I’m complaining, really I’m not…just comparing is all…I still dig “Truth” quite a bit when all is said & done…Omlor’s got a solid grip on how to create really chilled-out melodies, rhythms, and grooves that hit the mark and this still certainly qualifies. I could even see some suit & tie eyeing this tune up and mistaking it for the number-one single on this record, even as subtle as it is…the hooks & melody are that accessible & tangible for all to reach; but make no mistake, any choice other than throwing the full weight behind “It Ain’t Over” is certainly gonna meet with resistance from yours truly. The execution is there without question though…the performance put into “Truth” is a noteworthy one, again, as subtle & stripped-down as it truly is, it’s played in a way that makes the moment connect and delivers on the resounding impact it should have on us as a result.
From here on in, looks like we get into a couple of bonus cuts for the final two.
Now that sir, is some accordion right there…don’t often hear that get busted out all that much anymore, but you will on “Stella Blue 12-5 Rehearsal.” I like the thick bass-lines to be found, I like the pace & space this song has…David does a good job singin’ it, and I even like the accordion if I’m being honest – it all stacks up pretty well in his favor here. There’s an argument to be made that it’s a bit looser or still more of a new idea with complexities in the beat that do prove to be complicated…but I mean, it DOES have the word rehearsal right there in the title, so if YOU wanna make that argument, have at it hoss. To me, I guess I felt like it was implied…and really, it’s not so much that it comes out sounding like we’re in for any kind of quick run-through of a new tune before playing a show, so much as it just felt like we all got to chill out with David in the room on a day inside outta the rain, and this is what naturally came out. He’s actually a dead-ringer for Sting at points when he sings this song, though the style of the tune itself is quite different from his catalog overall – all-in-all though, it works well. “Stella Blue 12-5 Rehearsal” shows promise for sure…it’s a bonus inclusion for us DIE HARD DAVID OMLOR FANS, alright? After the solid set he’s put in throughout the nine tracks included with the album, I welcomed these two additional cuts…I can understand why they might not have made the official lineup, but still good tunes.
You will find MORE accordion show up on “Friend Of The Devil” as well! That’s right, step right up folks, BONUS accordion! And a song that more than likely should be included with the full official set if I’m being truthful. That being said, I mean…hard to argue with finding a song in the bonus round that you feel was just as strong as what you found on the record itself…clearly that’s gonna lead to a quality tune. It should also be noted that I am indeed, sitting right now in a studio that houses three legit accordions; I have no idea how to play ANY of them, but I’ve got three here to practice on at any time I choose to I suppose…and like David here, when I find that right song for them to show up on one day, it’ll be time to take’em outta their cases for one seriously glorious squeeze-box jam here, I promise you that. Melody-wise, David dives back in towards the Van Morrison/Bob Dylan-esque vibes in the verses, and brightens up the hooks of the chorus with a duet for ya here at the very end. Same thing as the other bonus tune, sure it could use another coat of paint if it was gonna make the official lineup, but “Friend Of The Devil” also reveals another dimension of where Omlor’s sound & style could go in the future to follow. Mighty satisfying experience all said & done though…and I’m stoked I got to hear these extras here at the end.
Find out more about David Omlor from his official website at: https://davidomlormusic.com