Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Asia Mei ~ Introverse

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: pop rock, Russian
Label: self-released
Year: 2011
Home: Massachusetts

Members: Asia Mei ~ keyboards/vocals/programming
Andres Wilson ~ guitar/b. vocals
Louis Ochoa ~ bass
Andreas Brade ~ drums

Additional: Rich Zucker ~ snare drum
Julie Lee, Michelle Painter, Yuki Numata, Benjamin Russel ~ violins
Sarah Bleichfeld, Caitlyn Lynch ~ viola
Lowie Lin, Wayne Smith ~ cello
Hiroshi Sembon ~ programming
Michal Richardson, Jonah Rank, Ian Bateson, Cameron Fadgo, Julie Weiss, Yeshiva, Gonul Aksoy, Ben Nathan ~ b. vocals


I find that whenever one says 'here's a girl who plays piano & sings pop songs' many people assume the outcome is either going to be quirky Regina Spektor or introspective balladeer Tori Amos. On one hand it's good that there's been many women pianists over the years, from 60's Carole King to 00's Jane Mangini, helping bring the instrument more fully into the limelight & moving it beyond the world of Wakeman/Emerson dominated prog-rock or classical music where women pianists do have a dominating role. But, on the other hand, the diverse styles of music all these women pianists have shared with the world gets muddied over. Music PR thrives on comparisons & who sounds like who & being plugged into a comfortable or not niche & genre, so one can't be faulted too much for seeing the smaller picture & forgetting that the aforementioned Jane Mangini is often found on lists of the top 10 prog keyboardists & Christine McVie made some of the best pop of the 70's without a hint of classical music anywhere near here but actually the blues. The problem is when was the last time you saw a woman pianist listed on a list of best pop/rock pianists? Do we even think of them in that role? Like thinking of girl drummers ... it feels strange. One would not make such assumptions of a male pianist about what they will sound like, so we can't blame it all on the uncool nature of the eighty-eight keys in general ... it's just the fact that women are still not seen as equal players in music for anything but singing. Having said all this, pianist/singer & composer AM might play the piano & have songs centered on the instrument with a bit of a classical fringe (i.e. "Saved", "You (Wedding Song)"), but the first notes coming out of "Maps" which opens Introverse is a steady & slow bass guitar followed by an organ & one is immediately tuned into the fact that AM is not going give us the type of piano album we're expecting ... or at least not completely. Actually, it takes a minute before her voice is joined by any clear piano tinkling over the guitar lines & then the piano is not the upfront instrument at all. So, welcome to the world of AM the emotional singer & songwriter who just happens to play the piano but still appreciates electric guitar lines, acoustic guitar textures, a strong rhythm, a trendy loop, lots of textures & emotional nuances from the vocals, lyrics & the music. AM waves the flag, intentionally or not, that female pianists have a range & a lot of creativity & a wide palette. AM weaves in alt rock (i.e. "Maps", "Big Apple Tree", "I Dream") & acoustic guitars including some soulful blues (i.e. "Walking Away"), classical strings (i.e "Saved", "I Fall") & occasional programming (i.e. "Big Apple Tree", "I Dream") & even a touch of klezmer (i.e. "A Bus To Sunshine"). Yet, at other times she keeps things simple with soft ballads (i.e. "You (Wedding Song)", "I Fall", "The Forgotten One", "Your Answer"). Though, personally, I wouldn't mind more upbeat rock feeling songs & less dreaming piano-based ballads. While overall, she sings in a light tone like she's whispering some sweet words in your ear. AM is singing love songs, so she actually is whispering sweet nothings. AM was born in Russian, grew up in Jerusalem before coming to America to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music in the days of 9/11, before discovering the beauty of economic collapse as a NYC resident temporarily. Her husband Andres Wilson contributes guitars. Shards was AM's debut in 2006 & was hailed by music critics instantly. As a string arranger she's worked with Annie Gallup & John Wesley Harding, & has done Pro-Tools editing for Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt & Moby. She's also sang in a classical chorus that toured with opera's Andrea Boccelli. If you like your music more mellow & personal I highly recommend AM.

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