Michael Blu – Mr. Spaceman – Album Review
You wanna know something? This Michael Blu guy sure has a ton of style!
From the moment that “Listen,” the opening track on Michael’s new album Mr. Spaceman starts out…you can hear there’s something a little different coming at you through the speakers. If what that difference is eludes you at first…if you don’t know WHAT that could be…that’s okay; in fact, this opening song is very much an invitation to take some time and think about what the right decisions are for us all…to “Listen” and join in…when the time is right.
And I think the missing words you’re searching for to describe what you’re hearing from Michael might be something like: confident, cool, collected…RIGHT. I mean, if I had to simplify this entire review down to one single sentence I still think I could nail it…lemme try for a second…
It sounds RIGHT.
Oh yeah! Take THAT my journalistic peers! Look at that beautiful, all-encompassing description in just three short words…what a truthful statement…what a revelation!
As tiny and succinct as that statement might be – I absolutely think that applies here. Mr. Spaceman, as an album in entirety…just sounds RIGHT. It sounds right in the moment…it literally sounds reflective of a man that is embracing not only his time as a musician, but also indicates he really spent that time in between his last album Release My Soul in 2013 growing and refining his talents in the true directions of which he has always wanted to make this outstanding new material. And that’s why I can’t just say it sounds comfortable…or I would have. It does sound comfortable; and in multiple ways the subtle-grooves and smooth song-writing sound relaxed, warm, inviting…but when you hear how it’s all come together here for Michael Blu on this new album from beginning to end, well, you’ll know it too; it’s not just comfortable…it’s the sheer sound of what getting it RIGHT for yourself sounds like.
And if you were to ask this reviewer…there’s something magical in music that happens when you really find yourself…you begin to release albums like Mr. Spaceman – an album with all the audible evidence that you need to know that this is where Michael Blu belongs. His new album displays an incredible amount of diversity within the music and ideas and true versatility & style that is nothing short of captivating all throughout Mr. Spaceman.
What I also REALLY like about Michael Blu is that if you look at his social media right now celebrating the release of this album just yesterday…you’ll see that he’s the first to hand out credit where credit is due and has thanked a ton of people who have been on this journey with him in refining his sound. Fully explaining their necessary impact in his development, confidence, perseverance and song-writing – you have to appreciate a musician as humble and genuine as Michael is. He’s loving every minute of this musical adventure he’s on, happy to share it with YOU and with others in his life; and all of this radiates beautifully from the speakers as Mr. Spaceman plays.
Another thing I won’t have for you today is a ton of comparisons. While there are surely a few I’ll make along the way, largely Blu is creating new tapestries, sounds and combinations wildly fused with rock, pop, funk, romance, acoustic and electro elements. The album is vastly creative and ambitious…but delivered so smoothly that your ears surrender quickly and willingly…let the music play!
“Listen” really starts the album smartly with a lyrical call-to-arms and seize-the-day attitude. With excellent pop/rock energy, it pulses along slowly but at a perfect pace to get the maximum sweetness in all the right places. The strings come in and this song goes from good to great pretty quickly, and also introduces one of the many instruments styles and sounds that will fuel this album’s diversity. Blu starts the album out with a confident tone; you can tell he not only believes in the material but that he wants to share the very core concepts of what drives him with YOU. I could be wrong, but to me that’s what I was getting out of this inspiring & uplifting opener…he doesn’t just want to be the best version of himself…he does, but he wants YOU to be the best version of YOU too.
He shines brightly on “Under The Moon,” a highlight song & performance that occur early on in the album. Excellent ideas here from the mood & melody, to the vocal-flow, to the saxophone addition, to the harmonics played from the guitar…I mean, people, look at these things I’m saying…we’re not just talking about bass, guitars, drums, verse, chorus, verse here (even though, well, yeah…they’re ALL outstanding…) – Michael Blu has stretched his imagination right into his music and made an effort to make new combinations that WORK.
What I also dig is that “Under The Moon” presented an early departure from what you might have thought the album would sound like after the opening tune “Listen.” Both good songs of course, but the idea that they contrast somewhat to each other in sound really sets the stage for any idea or sound to follow to be easily accepted into your listening ears. Your ears can accept not knowing what to expect; in fact, it’s a biological certainty that they love it. So does your brain…it loves mystery and as each second ticks by throughout this album it’ll want to know what’s coming up next.
And if you notice…you’ll even notice there are credits specifically going to both Jason Pellegrino and to Michael for the album’s song-order…so believe me when I say, this was probably a much-discussed item on the musical-menu. But when you hear this album in full and how it flows…what can I say other that all those late-night conversations about what song should go where have fully paid off. And I believe, if I’m reading this right…Pellegrino is supplying the bass upon this album as well…
…which leads me to “I Need You,” which is a great song for so, so many reasons but bass is absolutely one of them. What a standout performance on this song; it has funk, it has jazz, it has class, it has style. The acoustic guitars surrounding are equally standout as are the flute sounds and vocals. The chorus in “I Need You” comes out just above a whisper as Blu softly sings into the mic to match the mood of this song perfectly. It’s an absolutely sparkling performance and truly an achievement in its ambition – this combination of instruments, tones & melodies works stunningly.
So far along, I wouldn’t so much compare him to any particular sound, but as “Marry Me Girl” started out, I realized that Blu certainly possesses the spirit and embodiment of the true musician like a champion like Robbie Nevil did. That guy was able to try anything/everything he wanted to in music because he was never afraid to go after it, and he became a name for sound & style through his never-ending passion for creating new & exciting sounds. I think a track like “Marry Me Girl” shows that same fearlessness on Blu’s part as this is yet another gear he’s slipped into for a more rock-laden sound; every approach he makes echoes with resounding confidence.
Now…here’s where things get a little crazier…at least comparison-wise. It’s the most apt one I’ve come up with…but I can already tell you it’s completely random and massively coincidental. In other words – I’d be the last guy to say that Michael Blu is drawing inspiration from the Smashing Pumpkins…but…well, bear with me for a moment…
Does anyone remember the song “Rocket” by SP? I’m sure many of you do…and if you remember how Corgan sings those first lines of this song, you’ll hear similar from Michael in the title-track “Mr. Spaceman.” Big deal right? Whatever – I just thought this parallel was extremely cool, random as it is – but for those that remember the video SP put out in support of “Rocket,” it put them all straight out into space and off the planet. Hence “Mr. Spaceman?” Again – I doubt that there’s anything here that didn’t come out completely coincidental in its opening tones as the following elements of the song are entirely different and all his own. With its up-tempo and pop vibe, departures into funk and robotic-vocal elements, “Mr. Spaceman,” almost comes out like post-new-wave music if there is such a thing. A massively addicting chant-style chorus you can hear just what a gigantic song this could be in a live-setting…having this chanted back at you from the crowd would be what I’d consider to be ‘the dream’ come to life. So if you find yourself IN one of those audiences for Blu, remember that…and raise up your voice in support.
When listening to a track like “Buckle Up,” I started to think about how many places you can put music like Michael’s, yet how damn near impossible music like this is to market. As far as radio goes, he’s looking at a long post-album-life of remixing these to lean slightly more towards a rock, or a pop, or a fill-in-the-blank-here sound to appease the format of the station. As they stand now, this is an album any musician can appreciate with its inspiring natural ability to straddle several styles in a commitment to combination rather than specific genre…but that does make it tougher to somehow get the music out there. How IS that the case? Thankfully it’s not when we consider how the independent scene works; we rely heavily on each other and the support of word of mouth – and you can already see from the list of album credits that word is certainly going to spread about what Michael has achieved here on his album Mr. Spaceman. “Buckle Up” is nearly a little more ‘traditional’ in its composition and arrangement, but I think that Blu has managed to yet again make this move fluidly away from the typical and into the artistic & creative-beyond. Excellent guitar solo in this cut too…short…almost too short…cause it’s that damn good.
“Choka Clean” is about as fun as music can get. Completely based in surfing & sunshine, Blu’s all-kinds-of auto-tuned here…and for those of you that STILL don’t ‘get-it’ and rail against it and its robotic-nature…go and LISTEN to this. This is using the auto-tuner as an instrument, an accent to the vocals that still needs to be used and tweaked precisely…like, unbelievably precisely (Ya gots NO idea!) to get the sound to come out this perfectly. An extremely commendable performance from the musicians and from the studio-boards, completed perfectly with a catchy beat and outstanding saxophone throughout the song, “Choka Clean” is good, clean fun to listen to from beginning to end.
We had an opportunity long before this album was released to produce a video for the following track “In This World,” and we gave it a shot. Even though I don’t believe we officially made the grade on that one, Michael Blu had already demonstrated himself to be a gentleman and a real man of high-caliber. And I suppose, when looking back now…this was also technically the first introduction I had to Michael’s style & sound…or so I had thought…
I still like the song, but I always think it’s tougher almost when you get a single so far in advance sometimes…you know what I mean? There is so much new, standout material that I haven’t heard yet…so many new impressively-smooth combinations I got to uncover on Mr. Spaceman, that I suppose “In This World” took a backseat for me comparatively…but based on all that, probably wouldn’t be the case for any of YOU. Leaning a little more to the rock-side here, this song has a very catchy & memorable hook that sticks itself quaintly in your ears and nestles in there comfortably to call your headspace its home.
Oddly enough “Big Blue Rose” wasn’t the first time I felt like I had heard some sort of an Anthony Kiedis-vibe from Michael’s vocals…there’s something about the tone of his voice that drifts into the same inviting elements of the Chili Peppers vocalist when he’s calmed down and focused. Anthony – not Michael…Michael is always focused, or at least certainly is throughout this entire album. I love the departure this one makes for on Mr. Spaceman, “Big Blue Rose” is hypnotic and beautiful in its dark rhythmic ways. Excellent violins or maybe strings in the background…not sure which of those it is entirely but it adds to the atmosphere perfectly. Definitely one of my favourites on the album…but each of these songs gives the one before a run for its money…the details have all been completely refined and perfected to the point where I’d honestly be shocked if Michael himself didn’t feel each and every one of these songs came out exactly as he’d always envisioned they would.
And YES…again, the album layout is included in all of what I’m saying here. The genius play of dropping the energy down again just slightly for the subtle sentimental melodies of “The Giant” allow this line-up of songs to make the final impact the music deserves by bringing up the energy for the album’s finale with “My First Song.” Just saying…I really do think this album is expertly laid out and produced…Blu has an incredible team standing alongside them and they should all be mightily proud of this record.
But I’m not telling them anything I know Michael hasn’t already told them himself…he’s a humble, thankful and grateful musician enjoying every minute of this ride and proud of these people that have become a part of this journey. Just read the credits he’s included on his Bandcamp page and you’ll see what I mean – he’s such a genuinely great guy and obviously someone people WANT to work with for his good-natured and determined personality.
After the emotionally-endearing melody of “The Giant” Blu takes us to the end of the album cheekily-titled “My First Song.” I mean…maybe it IS…I don’t know…but it sure doesn’t sound like anyone’s first time out. What a song! This chorus is just pure-beauty. Lyrically it’s a perfect reflection of the mood & tone, but man…delivery-wise Michael is absolutely pure sonic-gold right here against this electro-driven beat. This one speeds by at less than three minutes long with fantastic sounds and harmonies and as much as I personally wish the song could have gone on longer…well let’s face it, I’d probably end up writing ANOTHER page.
So with that…I’ll wrap this up because I’m pretty sure you can all get what I’m saying about this album at this point. Very unique and beautiful combinations throughout Mr. Spaceman, but it’s honestly stunning when you listen to it for the work put INTO it. It came out flawlessly, it came out with new hooks & ideas I felt I hadn’t heard before and completely entertained me listen after listen through the commitment, conviction, heart and dedication that rings through audibly. It came out RIGHT.
Find out more about Michael Blu through his official links:
Photography for Michael Blu by Richard Casteel – find more info on him at: http://www.capturingmilliseconds.com
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