Album Somewhere in the Sierras
Release Date: 30 June 2015
Label DIY Genre Atmospheric
It has been a long wait for those that helped fund Michael Franzino‘s side project alone. Over a year ago the entire project was funded and we were promised that the musical scope of this record would be a departure from his normal compositions of A Lot Like Birds. On June 30th, Somewhere in the Sierras will finally be released to the public.
Anyone who has followed what this guy has created in the past knows how complex the music flowing from his creative side is. Across this album it is the same way, every layer of explosive power on opening track “Scopare Ma Non Sentire” grows and grows into an epic journey. The high falsetto vocals come off sounding like a choir of one’s empty longing backed with a pulsing string section and floating guitars.
Just when we begin to think we understand how this album might develop, “Leave Me” calmly opens our ears to a synthesized wonderland that is the opposite of the opening song. Hear we have a simple drum pattern, no guitars but Franzino’s cadences igniting the drums to be more lively, giving the song an extra amount of exigent desire at the end. “An Interlude for Andrew Dammar” is a slight extension/opening expression of the beautiful themes found in “Close Without Closure.” The violin on the former delicately brings out the refrain of the latter song. Everything that happens within “Close Without Closure” is sonically perfect. The vocals act as their own instrument, with Danicka McClure taking the song to new levels when the lyrics come together and sound like old lovers wading through their thoughts on each other.
A majority of Somewhere in the Sierras discusses the feelings of longing and the difficulties between lust and love suffering through a difficult breakup. It is a little angst-driven, which comes through on “Please Try” and develops into the most “” driven song. The bass guitar is profound, adding another layer to the already exceptional rhythm section provided by Joe Arrington (drummer for ALLB). The guitars diffuse at the end when the last vocal note is hit with multiple harmonies adding to the urgency. “1 800 273 8255” is a clever song title, but the most astounding part here is the drums. They create a distraction to an otherwise simple song, creating the kind of panic that people fear when they are alone.
The back half of the album shines as much as the previous 20 minutes, with “More Fiend” being a dark track touching on the ideas of what others think of us after we have passed. Again we have the vocals adding rich textures as another instrument, stretching the singer’s range as an amorphous presence to bring everything together. “Redundant, Redundan” is a duet between Franzino and McClure. The way the guitar chords are voiced to add even more to the melody is probably my favorite part of this track.
With only two tracks left, take a look back at the previous eight, every song has their own feel and weight to bringing Somewhere in the Sierras together. No song sounds familiar to each other. It is astounding this much variety in an album, with “You Are My Sunshine” adding an ominous lullaby to soak in as well. An old childhood favorite to calm people has been transformed into walls of clashing harmonies with a slightly disturbing tone. The dark track has a bit of solace in the bridge before enlarging the dissonance in the final chorus. “Maternity Leave (Funeral March 28th” is the emotional ballad to pull at our hearts and force out the tears. The final movements of the song build up to a finale of quick bursts before abruptly ending. It is the closing curtain of a long journey of one man exploring his inner inspiration and a sonically beautiful album.
This is one of the most exciting albums to listen to all year. All 10 songs each have their own personality and expression and that doesn't happen often. Dryw Owens did an amazing job producing and engineering the mind and feelings of Michael Franzino into one cohesive project. Pick up the album from his bandcamp and be ready for an experience. Side note: I never knew he could sing this exceptionally.