Unassumingly evocative and surprisingly sweeping despite its simplistic design, “Rambling Man,” one of the fourteen songs comprising the new Andy Michaels album Incendiary Heart, slides into view with a freewheeling string melody that will only grow more enticing as we push on in the track, but much as it is with “Fireflies,” the rustic “Humming Bird” and cutting title track from the LP – which brings Tiarna Madison into the fold for not one but two very special performances – tonality and understated harmonies act as a mere backdrop for the brilliant poeticism Michaels will share with us here. His heart is on his sleeve from beginning to end in Incendiary Heart, and when combined with his penchant for giving us an emotional performance, the vocal he contributes to this record is the best he’s put onto master tape so far.

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“Emerald Eyes,” the other Tiarna Madison song on the album, is a bit more pendulous than the title track is, but along with “I Can Fly,” it uses its restrained tempo to create an atmosphere around us that transcends any verses Michaels may or may not be singing from the center of the mix. “The Flame,” featuring Kerry Ironside, is a lot more forceful and lyrically-driven, but I don’t think it makes the dualities of “Only Change Stays the Same” seem overly complex at all; contrarily, it works to the advantage of the latter by highlighting how versatile this artist can be regardless of the style he’s employing in any given track. Simply put, he isn’t about to be pegged down to one aesthetical box in Incendiary Heart.

Sharon Court drops in for a closing song in “Planet 8” that sends chills down my back every time I hear it thanks to a pulsating percussive foundation, and though “This Songs for You” was probably my favorite track of the album’s first half, I don’t know that it can compete with the acrylic design of this final number. Carolyn Thomas’ “Sticks and Stones” is a close runner-up in terms of giving us a tangibly toned performance at live-quality, but if I’m being perfectly honest, the single and music video for “Darling It Hurts” is probably the best-produced material here. The video itself is exquisite, and though it’s really thoroughly polished, it doesn’t sacrifice the music’s indie persona for a flashy external cover at all.

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When I first sat down with Incendiary Heart, “Only Love Knows the Meaning of Goodbye” really took me by storm, washing away any preexisting thoughts from my mind and replacing them with a churning rhythm I wouldn’t soon forget. There’s a lot of darkness to the content here, both in cryptic tunes like this one as well as more unfanciful tracks like “Night and Day,” but beneath the layers of madness we find an artist in Andy Michaels who seems more than ready to do anything and everything possible with his career right now. He’s giving up a big chunk of his soul in these fourteen songs, and that alone makes his new record something every music aficionado should be spinning this month.

Nicole Killian

About The Author

Nicole Killian

Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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