Mike Acerbo | The Search (self-released)

 

cd mike-acerboThere are a lot of very good things going on here; there are some clear misses, as well.

 

The Search, the debut release from Mike Acerbo, is a haunting and deeply personal album from the self-taughtNew York musician. Acerbo has traveled a difficult road getting here, between substance abuse and much loss in his personal life. His struggles have given him a wealth of stories from which to weave into his songs. Lyrically, this is a fairly dark album, touching on the death of friends and close family as well as his struggles with life.

Acerbo teamed up formally trained musicians Geoffry Kiorpes and Leah Coloff to help craft this wonderfully dark offering. Heavily influenced by Fleetwood Mac and reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens and Andrew Bird, musically the album is complex and heavily layered with piano, guitar, violin, and cello. The songs waiver back and forth between straight-up tales of his life and tracks about his life set in a fantasy. It makes for a fascinating listen.

“Fairy Tale Love” is a great example of the rich complexity in Acerbo’s music. It starts with almost monk-like chanting and tribal drums; next, finger-picked guitar kicks in, then a wailing electric guitar and a mellow piano melody on top of that. This continues to build throughout the song.

However, all of this is not to say that everything on this album works. “No Moon” and “Beast” are examples of songs I could do without. They come across as kitschy and uninspired, as the analogy of the fantasy world seems to be more important than telling the actual story. It might just be their placement after the exuberant “Where the River Meets the Sea.” “Robbie” is a song about a friend of Acerbo’s who died tragically, and his recording it to keep a promise to his friend’s mother inspired him to finish the album. It’s a very deep and touching track, but ultimately just left me depressed. Thankfully, the album does close with two really strong tracks.

Ultimately, musical success is in the ear of the beholder. There are a lot of very good things going on here; there are some clear misses, as well. This is an incredibly promising start for Mike Acerbo and I really hope he does continue with his dream of music. He has a lot to offer us.

The Search is due out February 14, 2012. C+ | Mike Koehler

RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Avett Brothers

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