I had intended to include this as a feature selection in a round-up of new releases, but then something happened – that turned into a set of ‘semi-quavers’ set apart by a full review on this album. It simply earned and deserved the attention – so here it is!
Summary: Since my family has such diverse set of musical tastes – one son is huge into techno while the other favors mostly rap and some ‘screamo’, my wife loves pop and alt-rock from throughout the decades, and I listen to … however you want to describe my avant-garde music – finding common ground is always a tricky prospect. Our compromise solutions are either to put on the Slacker Radio ’80′s, 90′s, Now’ station, or alternating choices one at a time. It is seldom that we hit upon something that EVERYONE actually wants to listen to – it requires something like The Beatles, Police, U2, or certain Pat Metheny or Miles Davis selections. Or … Marco Machera’s new recording.
Marco Machera is an Italian musician and songwriter best known as a bassist, but truly comfortable on a number of instruments. On the album ‘One Time, Somewhere’ he puts together an eclectic collection of songs that cross genres and have a timeless feel. To be honest, my initial experience wasn’t so thrilling. The first song Hello is gorgeous, but as my older son said ‘as a first song it doesn’t really grab you’. My other son called it a ‘snoozer’ at first, but before long we were all appreciating the absolutely gorgeous melody. It is a very introspective song, and while I question the choice of putting it first in our ’30 second sound-byte’ world, once you give it a real chance it reveals its beauty.
The opening figure of Stories Left Untold is like many songs on the album – I hear echoes of familiar bass figures or harmonic structures, but the song itself is unique and original. In this particular case I hear fragments that bring me back an early 80s Bill Laswell recording and something else I can’t recall. But it all serves the driving pulse that takes you on a tourist’s journey. The lyric is simple and clean, and in the ‘verse’ you get a view into an ongoing story reminiscent of King Crimson and most certainly others.
When Days of Summertime started, my kids were immediately reminded of The Beatles. I saw that but also The Moody Blues and some of the singer-songwriter works of the late 70s. But don’t mistake that for saying it sounds dated – it has a classic feel but is thoroughly updated. The heavily flanged guitar provides and extra harmonic depth that works very well with the structure of the song – and the outchorus is simply gorgeous. Marchero then launches into an all-out rocker that would fit well into a 90′s alt-rock playlist, but isn’t derivative of that era. Bright Lights Big Cities starts tense, leads into a suspended segue that you can just feel waiting to explode into the chorus – and then it does and you aren’t disappointed. If you have read the book and seen the movie (book is better), you will be visualizing elements throughout.
Throughout the album Machera paints stunning musical images and soundscapes that transport you and tell stories, and nowhere is that clearer than El Muerto!. Evidently based on a comic character, when I listened I was reminded of the Clint Eastwood ‘spaghetti westerns’ that I love so much. The story is serious, but never falls into being overly dramatic or pretentious – which I credit to the lightness and drive of the music. You feel like you are riding through town all during the song, and even after a dozen or more listens I am never ready for the song to end.
Fortunately what comes next isn’t a let down – even if it is a down song. Down Below has a sad, introspective feel to the verse, but in the chorus there is a sense of hope and promise that plays against the strings in the background. The song is quickly over and we are into Gotzen-Dammerung , a play on Neitzsche’s book title that musically harkens back to 80s synth-pop. There are elements of Kraftwerk and I am again reminded of King Crimson as well as a number of 80s groups I can’t specifically recall.
I have mentioned the cinematic nature to the music, and on Hire Her we get a serene and beautiful soundscape that could easily be a soundtrack element that carries the scene folks would always remember from a film. The final song Troubled Childhood starts and ends with a figure that reminds me very much of The Kink’s ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy’. The introspective feel brings the album full-circle, but the song itself takes off to a much stronger place after the intro concludes, and brings back elements from earlier songs such as Stories Left Untold which layer up and form an internal tension before returning to the simple opening figure and fading out with a variety of softer elements combined in the background.
My family ended up loving this album, and have never objected to me putting it on. In fact, as I was playing it the other day my younger son reflected that he will miss hearing the songs as often when I was done reviewing it. I told him to do what his brother and my wife did and drop it on HIS iPod as well! My older son immediately put Days of Summertime and El Muerto! on his iPod and has since added the rest of the album. He called Days of Summertime ‘Mad Catchy’, and noted that El Muerto was ‘badass’ and that he could picture rolling through town in a pickup truck blasting that song …’ My younger son loved some of the beats and basslines, and my wife thought it was just a great album and always enjoyed when she could hear bits of Machera’s accent in the lines.
I look at ‘One Time, Somewhere’ as almost a concept album in a similar way to Julian Lage’s Gladwell. All of the songs come together to form a portrait of an artist as traveler observing the world – and learning about himself. It is an incredibly satisfying debut that makes me highly anticipate whatever Marco Machera works on next!
Choice Track (and why): El Muerto! – as noted, my kids called this song ‘badass’, and for me I was transported to my youth and watching ‘spaghetti westerns’. The storytelling is sincere without every becoming kitschy, and the musical portrait Machera paints is evocative of others and yet truly original.
You Might Love This If: If you are a fan of strongly written songs in the pop and rock genre that have a timeless feel, evoke great works of others and show influences without being derivative or reductive, and are just high quality and enjoyable music.
Where to Buy: iTunes Music Store – $8.91
Here is a video featuring an instrumental edit of ‘Days of Summertime’: