How often do you go out of your way to recommend something that is distinctly dark? I don’t mean when you tell a friend to check out a movie because it’s violent. I mean when is the last time you suggested someone check out something distinctly thematically heavy, one that asks and confronts uncompromising ideas.
It’s a difficult thing to ask of someone, let alone in a year such as this where the ideas of mortality are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I promise you if you’re looking for a cathartic album that will speak to truths far beyond the nightmare landscape we live in, I cannot recommend Leo Harmonay’s newest album Astoria enough. From the minute the album begins with the laid back “We All Know” itself evoking the feelings of the album cover, a bit of world weariness set against a rising run (or is it setting?) and a part of me has to ask if even the album covers opaqueness is deliberate. Once the opener disarms you and gets you comfortable it proceeds to the rug up from underneath you. It’s not an aggressive switch, but an almost trojan horse tactic to really allow the album to explore the bigger picture. What have we become when we feel like we’ve done all we can, but maybe it’s not enough?
It’s a dense listen and most certainly might not be everyone’s cup of tea but to me, It’s a musical odyssey of melancholy. Leo mixes both blunt observations about life and growing with lines like “connected in a disconnected way” but also utilizes a more abstract paintbrush on his lyrical canvas with phrases like “the loneliness brings starlight blues.” For me personally, the highlight of the album comes with “Running Around”, a track I feel best combines all of Harmonay’s talents as a lyricist as well as it’s accompanying production. Its deceptively catchy but holds potent subtext about the inability to escape ones problems, a theme discussed in the album opener. By the tracks end, the repeating phrase “Why’s everybody running around” begins to fade into a soft whisper almost indicative of the narrator unable to run away from his own problems.As seemingly repetitive as its subject matter may come across on an admittedly lengthy album, little flourishes like the flute/recorder noises on “On The Plains for Ella” to a memorable breakdown on “Flat Landscape Line” keep things fresh and engaging.
APPLE MUSIC: https://music.apple.com/us/album/astoria/1540886931
I get the impression some might find it dull for some modern sensibilities, but it’s like a carefully constructed art film: it’s not meant to be casually consumed. If you give this album your undivided attention you’ll be rewarded with a refreshingly honest auditory journey and I cannot recommend it enough. I would say it’s a dark album, but dark doesn’t mean punishing and I think especially after a year like this, we could all use a little more time looking inwards and I’m content knowing Leo is leading the charge.