Thursday, September 6, 2012

Andrew Osenga - Letters to the Editor, Vol. 1 (EP Review)

(Here's my most recent NoiseTrade piece.)

For anyone who’s followed the musical life and times of Andrew Osenga, it’s safe to say that the pleasingly unexpected twists and turns, while fun and interesting enough in their own right, have definitely churned out an impressive catalog of work. Apart from his full band work (The Normals, Caedmon’s Call, Jars of Clay), his hired gun guitarslinger duties (serving the greater metropolitan of Nashville and the surrounding areas) and his deft production skills (also serving the greater metropolitan of Nashville and the surrounding areas), the guy’s got a stunning roster of solo releases heavily peppered throughout the mix. His next solo album, Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut, is set to release on September 18 and to stir up even more excitement (as if recording the album in a handcrafted spaceship while wearing a customized spacesuit wasn’t enough), he’s putting one of his solo EPs, Letters to the Editor, Volume 1, up on NoiseTrade for this week only!

Letters to the Editor, Volume 1 was birthed from an interesting experiment Andrew crafted with his fans. Soliciting stories, pictures, drawings, letters and the like from his fans, Andrew offered to pick a few of them and write new, complete songs based off of them. The result was a rich, expansive 6-song EP that features only voice and guitar. Containing both single passes and some beautifully layered creations, Andrew was able to tell some stories, create others and even insert himself into a few of them over some deceptively complex musical settings. As an English major, Andrew’s lyrical ability is deceptively complex as well, gracefully weaving weighty issues and emotions into easily palatable lines.

We all know the book is always better than the summary, but here’s the cliff notes on the songs. “Wanted” is an acoustic tornado dream that sounds like an outtake from Springsteen’s Nebraska album. “The Ball Game” includes a little Normals backstory and had me checking the liner notes for singer-songwriter Todd Snider’s name. “You Leave No Shadow” features some great bluesy, finger-picking and multi-personality harmony vocals. “Anna and the Aliens” (my personal favorite track on the EP) contains my favorite, simple but telling lyric of the album, “She wanted Broadway, I just wanted The Mets” and sounds like full Cougar-era John Mellencamp. “The Blessing Curse” features more gorgeous finger-picking and some lush storytelling through multiple characters. Taking the “fan input” ideal to extremely cool limits, “Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates” closes out the EP with a choir of voices, all recorded from fans' homes via their computers and compiled by Andrew into one gorgeously ethereal ensemble.

As an added NoiseTrade bonus, Andrew has included an alternate version of “Firstborn Son,” a track from Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut, done in the guitar/voice vibe of his Letters to the Editor EPs. Word on the street is that next week Andrew will be swapping out Volume 1 for Volume 2 and will also be including another alternate version Leonard track. Any tips he receives, let me repeat, ANY TIPS HE RECIEVES… pause for effect… will go towards the continuing renovation/repair of his home that was totally devastated due to water damage while he was out of town this summer.

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