Michael Angelo – The Fool – Album Review
What a voice! The way that Michael Angelo’s first impression hits ya when the vocals begin on the title-track of their new record, is definitely something you’ll remember – they’ve got some serious style & soul on the m-i-c, and a fantastic mix of classic-meets-modern R&B vibes that the people out there are gonna have no problem gettin’ into. I love artistic innovators like M.A. that are able to take what we know, and push the entire genre forward with a bit of extra creativity, passion, and cleverness – trust me when I tell ya, you’ll push play, you’ll hear the smoothness of “The Fool” come glidin’ on outta your speakers, and within mere moments, I promise, you’ll be hooked. Listening to the opening of this record was just about one of the easiest things I’ve done this year, and one of the most enjoyable by the same measure for the very same reasons – “The Fool” is remarkably enticing & a fantastic start to this album. This much I can tell ya though, straight up – whatever the price of your admission might have been to this record right here, Michael Angelo covers the cost instantly through the mesmerizing allure and stunningly unique appeal of this very first cut alone – and there’s not a doubt in my mind that after you hear “The Fool,” you’ll find every reason in this initial impression to continue on listening like I did. You can’t possibly listen to a voice as amazing as Michael Angelo has and not be completely curious as to what else you’ll find on this debut record – this is the kind of sound any artist or band would be proud to be rockin’ with about ten years into their career…no doubt that they sound like a seasoned vet of the biz and the entertainment scene. For real y’all – “The Fool” is about as enticing of a beginning as you’ll ever be lucky enough to stumble upon…the music is perfection, the vocals are flawless – what a great start!
Uniqueness like this is so tangible that it’d be impossible to miss. “Love” was equally sensational as the opening cut was, albeit a bit more mellow by comparison I suppose. Regardless, we’re talking about nothing BUT invitational and welcoming vibes…and while I’ve said it already and I’m sure I’ll say it again and again throughout this review – what a VOICE! And that’s just the thing y’all – I can write about the spectacular vocals of Michael Angelo all damn day – but to hear it, is really something else entirely. Part throwback to the classic roots of the genre, and part so innovative & creative that M.A. is audibly light-years beyond the rest of what’s out there…no words I can write will adequately express just how easy to like or “Love” this artist’s music truly is – but a song like this will certainly go a long, long way to prove my points for me. From the snazzy Electro-beat that drives it, to the charm of the bass-lines in the mix – all of these elements that make up the music are spot on & produced perfectly – but having said that, if there’s anyone out there that can take their ears off of the vocals, then understand you are built of a stronger steel than I will ever be. I cannot stop listening to Michael Angelo’s sensational voice, nor do I find any incentive or reason to want to even attempt something that would be so extraordinarily misguided & ill-advised. M.A.’s looking to give away some “Love” here – and I’m inclined to accept – I’m gonna have an extremely tough time eventually parting ways with this album to move onto the next, and I’m 100% confident that after all I’ve experienced in just two tracks, that I’ll be coming back to The Fool time & time again. It’s mainly Soul at the core I suppose…but the aspects of Electro, Jazz, R&B, and Trip Hop that get infused into these tunes along the way throughout this album, make it all feel magical.
Even something like “Be Ready,” where I was less sure about the accessibility factor by comparison to the opening two cuts, I still couldn’t imagine anyone out there resisting. The verses are stylistically slick – and I think…for me, I was more interested in the anti-typical design of the rhythm & flow and how genuinely unique it was more-so than felt like it was a surefire thing that would connect with every set of ears listening. BUT…I mean…assuming folks make their way to the chorus of “Be Ready” – I think it’s pretty much game over from there. I know I get to these hooks, and added elements like the trumpet & piano that add so much extraordinarily beautiful color into the mix, and there’s no turning back for me. Michael Angelo is in the mood for love as I was alluding to earlier on – and in “Be Ready,” they’ve already got the action under the sheets well underway, you feel me? Absolutely spectacular vibes to be found here y’all – this is the kind of romantic fun that guarantees good times when the lights go down; it’s the kind of cut that’s bound to give you the tingly feelings on your naughty bits…and you know you love that. M.A. works with a ton of truly sensory sound from the music to the microphone on “Be Ready” as they detail this tale of wild nights between the sheets with such vivid passion & artistic flair.
Tracks like “Away” are straight up exquisite to experience – real hybrid stuff that essentially has a little something for everyone, and a whole lot for me – a track like this one is right up my alley. All-in-all, once it snaps into gear, I’d expect a track like “Away” and a lot of what we’ve heard so far in Michael Angelo would draw a ton of natural comparisons to Massive Attack, and rightly so – especially the earlier records in their catalog. But here’s what I’m talking about when we’re discussing hybrid sound – I’ve discovered similarities and comparisons I could make between “Away” and The Cult, INXS, Depeche Mode, just as much as I felt like I could cite more readily available comparisons like you’d find with stuff like Thievery Corporation or perhaps even Hooverphonic at times. There’s drama, there’s tension, there’s a wildly creative melody on display right off the drop on “Away” too – it’s a track that’s mired in melancholy…but I’ll be damned if you’ve ever run into anything melancholy that sounds this insatiably appealing at the very same time. The music here is extremely creative at its core – I ain’t gonna lie to ya, if there average set of ears took a real close listen, they’d likely balk at the use of the piano and how jarring it can tend to sound when you hear it on its own – but within the context of everything else in the mix and the vocals always commanding our attention, you won’t feel like it’s nearly as bizarre of a fit as perhaps it could have been. It’s an exploration in dissonant sound that works…and that’s no small achievement when it comes right down to it – in many ways, I felt like Michael Angelo kind of lucked out on “Away” in terms of just how accessible it ends up becoming as it plays on from where it started – but by the same token, there’s absolutely nothing they haven’t shown us so far that shouldn’t have us completely believing in the exceptional X-factor talent at work in this artist. I’ll fully admit, even I felt like “Away” wasn’t going to work the very first time I heard it when it initially began…and just how very, very onboard I was before that first spin was even over…was nothing short of remarkable. “Away” ended up being one of this album’s strongest cuts to me within a couple spins through The Fool entirely.
Like…damn! Michael Angelo sure might sound inviting on a whole lotta these tunes you’ll hear – but they make a massive argument not to cross their path on “Bitchcraft” – hell, at one point, they even proclaim “I’m the Angel of Death” in this song! So…you know…you might wanna consider that if you were considering crossing paths with M.A., I’m just sayin.’ Did I mention the sensational voice they have by now? I did? Are you sure about that? I feel like I would have remembered, but okay, I’ll keep it movin.’ Listen – “Bitchcraft” is one of those delightful surprises that defies any kind of description; you’ll get insights into M.A.’s coming out, you’ll get a glimpse into their passionate side, their darker side – it’s a whole mix of emotions – “love yourself or prepare to die” as they’ll tell ya direct on this tune. A lot of what I hear in Michael Angelo’s music reminds me a lot of where I felt like Hanging From The Rafters were going…but like…crossed with something colorfully vibrant and strange like Stereolab too in order to lighten up the vibe and give it a devilishly playful & mischievous thread that runs under the surface. Maybe Mellowdrone…is that the name I’m searching for here? All I know is that “you’re a savage” Michael Angelo – and I’m lovin’ every minute of it my friend – this whole song is absolutely intoxicating.
Is the mainstream READY for “Bitchcraft?” That I honestly do not know. Might be a tough sell to have on while you’re in line at the bank…I get that. What I can tell ya is, if we’re talking about single-worthy sound and what might very well be THE gateway into The Fool – “Kissed Me” could potentially make the strongest case. If there’s something wrong with this tune, I know I sure as hell ain’t hearin’ it – to me, this is audible perfection by just about every conceivable definition I can think of. Accessible as it gets, M.A. goes right for the heartstrings on “Kissed Me” with zero hesitation or apologies – proudly creating a beautiful love song that attempts to be nothing else other than exactly what it is – and it’s gorgeous! For a song built on this much dreamy serenity in sound, it’s seriously strong – from the lead to the background vocals, there are hooks comin’ atcha from every angle on “Kissed Me.” It’s not only engaging, it’s not only entertaining – it’s practically audibly euphoric as far as my ears are concerned. Everything about this song captures the spirit & essence of what it’s like to be in the moment and falling in love…meeting that someone special that feels like we’ve known them our entire lives somehow…it’s warm, it’s inviting, it’s comforting…it’s bliss in song form, and you feel the magic in every single second. As I’ve said on these pages many times over the years, there are songs a guy like me has to advocate on behalf of, and there is music that speaks completely for itself without needing a solitary word from yours truly to sell ya – I’m confident that every single one of you listening will love “Kissed Me,” 100%. Whaddya say folks? Decent odds of enjoying yourself, wouldn’t you say? Buy the ticket, take the ride.
Two things can often be true at the same time when it comes to music. After listening to just how universally accessible “Kissed Me” was, I had no doubt that the next song was in the toughest spot in the entire lineup of The Fool – that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes – but the reality is, it’s also a song that has an extremely artistic design that’s also much tougher for the average set of ears to wrap their heads around. So it’s kinda like the proverbial double-whammy here…toughest spot, toughest sound to make sense of…it’s gonna be a tall ask for people to latch onto “Angel Wings” without several spins under their belt. Which is almost really ODD to experience…because right off the drop, the piano will entice you in…you listen to the bass-lines and those all check out too…and as far as M.A. goes? Please y’all – have you heard anything less than complete sparkling perfection yet? No. No you haven’t. So YES – their voice is once again, as stellar as ever. It’s simply a matter of what challenges the ears and the mind together, and the effect of an artistic design as opposed to easily to absorb hooks that everyone can grasp – Michael Angelo will have to live with a few dissenting & differing opinions on “Angel Wings” I’d suspect – but if you’re anything like myself with an audiophile’s blood running through your veins…I mean…this is quite arguably one of M.A.’s most sincerely mesmerizing & enchanting vibes. The uniqueness of this song is extraordinary…it’s a genuinely creative gem of a tune with a ton of subtle and clever twists & turns, with arguably the most beautifully poetic lyricism found on the entire album.
Personally, I can get behind the unique design and artistic value of a cut like “Angel Wings,” though I can recognize it might be more of a challenge for the everyday listener. Where I felt more of a struggle was actually on “B.O.A.F.” afterwards. Decent tune, just not my favorite is all. You gotta understand y’all – at this point, Michael Angelo is only competing with themself – on just about any other record out there, “B.O.A.F.” is probably somebody’s A-side. On this particular record…which I have to keep reminding myself is a freakin’ DEBUT, which is astounding but that’s a whole other story…I’d say this cut doesn’t quite reach that same level of wow factor that every other cut surrounding it seems to have. Maybe it’s just a bit too dialed-back in its energy, maybe it’s just less of a song about the good times and the result of digging into a much more serious subject, maybe it’s that the hooks of the chorus didn’t quite seem to raise the stakes as much as I was hoping to find…honestly, I’m not even all that sure myself. What I did like the most was probably within the lyricism once again…”B.O.A.F.” in many ways, is about the recognition of self-worth and finding the strength required to walk away from unhealthy relationships – tracks like these play a significant role in listening ears out there that can benefit from knowing they’re not alone. I can’t even begin to express how many times in my life I found the strength I needed through music of some sort for whatever struggles I was facing – “B.O.A.F.” is quite likely going to fill a similar role in that regard. Part catharsis for Michael Angelo, which much of this record has been I’m sure – but in the process, they’ve opened the door to assisting the greater good with their own battles by making a song like “B.O.A.F.” – other people will hear this song, and find the strength they need to make the choices they need to make, knowing that others have been there as well, and survived it all.
It’s King Cobb Steelie! That’s who I’ve been trying to recall this whole time. Another obscure reference I know, but that’s the kind of vibe I’m pickin’ up from a lot of M.A.’s brilliant bass-line grooves in these atmospherically inclined, soulful sounds goin’ on. Listen to a cut like “Below The Stars” and you’ll get it. Michael Angelo has got a highly addictive way of makin’ the magic happen in music though y’all, that much I can tell ya for sure…”Addi’s World” is another solid track to have added to the lineup that strengthens the set through quality songwriting and lyrical details that seriously connect. For real – check this out…this is straight from the very first verse you’ll hear: “Sweepin’ the floor at the millionth job I hated, all alone I’d contemplate. Deep in my world I was lost in lamentation. How did I get here? Why Me? Am I too late?” Now…obviously, we can all glean our own meanings from any given song we listen to…but good lordy…that line just hit me like a ton of bricks or a punch straight to the face – it’s pretty much the exact story of how I got to be sitting here typing these words out that you’re reading right now. I wasn’t sweeping…I was loading brand-new towels into a dryer…but I experienced that real moment of WTF am I doing with my life – and I changed everything up from there. I quit my job, I started sleepingbagstudios, and I’ve never regretted a moment or ever looked back. Anyhow. Obviously this song isn’t about ME or my life experiences – but like I said, you’ll find that great music always has an interpretive value to it that allows us to internalize & personalize what we listen to – and I found that in “Addi’s World” at the very start for sure. As it progressed, the tale becomes more personal to Michael Angelo’s own story, and rightly so – this is their music, after all – and in that context, I’d wager a guess that this song is more about hoping you didn’t miss the moment where love existed. Life is such a busy place that if we’re not paying attention, we can miss the most monumental things and amazing people right in front of our own eyes…”Addi’s World” is more like what happens in the aftermath of feeling like you had missed that opportunity, only to find out that you actually hadn’t. So it comes with this like…second-chance being made the most of type feeling to it…which is quite uplifting really. “Addi’s World” is a smooth cut with dreamy piano vibes…really effective atmosphere.
Well you’ve gotta dig that now don’t ya? Michael Angelo chose to end this record with their own self-anthem at the very end, wrapping up The Fool with “Michael Angelo” to close it all with confidence and the stellar quality in soulful sound, style, and singing we’ve been experiencing since first pushing play. I’ll tell ya this much…you run into these tunes every so often…usually in Punk music if I’m being honest with ya…and 99% of the time, it’ll be a ridiculous mistake and self-aggrandizing tune that just ends up creating an instant parody of the artist or band that made it. It’s a seriously tough thing to avoid when going this direction, but I suspect our hero here might very well have found a way to make one work – “Michael Angelo” is yet another highly addictive vibe on a record that’s honestly been stockpiled with a whole array of’em! For real – how can you resist the jazzy & soulful swagger goin’ on here? You can’t! Nor should you deny yourself the audio pleasure that is Michael Angelo…this cat knows how to sing with style, and the natural pull of their personality & charming vocals ends up being a hook of its own, every single time. While I’d be straight-up crazy to recommend you all go out there and create your own self-titled anthems – I gotta admit, there’s nothing at all about “Michael Angelo” that didn’t come out sounding completely brilliant to me – I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the record’s best tunes overall. Not a doubt whatsoever that what you’ll hear all throughout The Fool will leave a resounding and memorable impact on ya – Michael Angelo makes exceptional music and has the X-factor, 100%.
Listen to music by Michael Angelo at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0Jf5GUKD5qLRK321z3KLbr
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