Hand on String
Styles: gentle acoustic singer-songwriter fluff
Others: Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Iron & Wine
"Precious" isn't a label many musicians would deliberately tether themselves to. The word foreshadows a certain eloquence, perhaps, and only the finest minerals our green earth has to offer are dubbed precious (metals, etc.). But as a male singer-songwriter, the term connotes a smugness only ascribed to the most cloying performers; the ones who crow like they have a mouth full of marbles and over-project the little lisps, puckers, and ticks that make their vocal presence unique.
Mike Andrews, that dude from the Donnie Darko soundtrack and other extracurricular projects, finally hoarded his talent for a project all his own, and I'll be dipped in a tub of Drano and dung if Hand on String isn't the most Precious piece of work I've heard since A-Set's latest full length or maybe Denison Witmer's most recent record. What sets Andrews' brand of Precious folk-pop apart from the two aforementioned pieces of shoo-shoo is a skilled ear for composition and mood, diverse instrumentation, gentle delivery, and subtle variety that pastes each track on the same picture board, definitively contrasting the images from each other with whispered ribbons of new color.
Which is not to say he doesn't slip on the proverbial banana peel or skid his heels through half of Hand on String, cartoon-like sparks emanating from the friction. Counteracting lush, languid tunes like "Orange Meet Lemon" are liver-spotted low points like the smarmy "Hello Lemon" and the aimless harmonies of "Through the Fog" that bear-hug the listener into believing they'll eventually find purchase on a sturdier hold. They don't. "Before the Echo" betrays a similar bond of artist-to-listener trust, parlaying a crippling bore of a riff into three-plus minutes of breezy folk-lite that should have been compacted into a minute, if not redacted altogether. Ditto for finale "Something Already Happened," a minimalist piano 'jam' that doesn't latch itself together in any coherent fashion, relying on its slow, soft comping to communicate... what, exactly?
Hey look, don't kill the messenger here, Pablo. Andrews wrote an EP's worth of sultry, ghostly material — "Tracings" will haunt your very core with its beautiful slide guitar — and offset it with an equal portion of featherweight filler. It's not my fault; I've been rooting for the guy since his rendition of "Mad World" had me scouring my mp3 archives for tracks from The Hurting and tearing up like a fatty who just found out Ben and Jerry's discontinued Chunky Monkey (don't worry fatty, just a hypothetical) or a rich bitch who just realized she ran out of Faketan cream and will have to go through a day NOT looking oranger than a ripe tangerine (don't worry richer, you can still smear yourself with goo) or a review writer who just found out 'oranger' isn't a word but is so in love with his scintillating simile he's willing to forego proper grammar AND his dignity to keep the run-on sentence in question intact (what a pathetic, droopy-dicked fuckstick!). Andrews should dedicate his time to polishing his duds until they sparkle like his gems; until then, his successes will continue to be relative to his failures.
1. Something Already Happened Again
3. Just a Thought
4. Orange Meet Lemon
5. See Me Plain
6. Sweeping Cleaning and Organizing
7. Love is Tired
8. Hand On String
9. Hello Lemon
10. Through the Fog
11. Before the Echo
12. Something Already Happened