Local Wire

Jonathan Sakas: Albatross

Title: Debut LP Albatross

Basics: Wait, what? An album that isn't countrified in any way? Someone arranging tracks with a synthesizer?

Sakas is from Arizona, right?

Indeed he is -- which makes his debut album Albatross all the more intriguing. 

You may be thinking: Hey, jackass, not every band from Arizona plays country or rock music!

I know, but almost every submission to You Asked For It is either country-twinged rock or bland pop. So excuse me for having very little faith when it comes to this sort of thing. Shall we continue?

Best Song: "Driver" is subdued, benevolent, just poppy enough and, overall, magnificent. It showcases Sakas' demure, uninterested-sounding vocal stylings the best. They lyrics aren't too awful, and the pressing synth line sets the rather gloomy -- with a dash of pizzazz -- soundscape. I use the phrase often, but this song ain't rocket science -- it is simple, it keeps a beat and it is rather enjoyable in its coquettish, standoffish manner. Sakas makes you wait a few minutes here and there while he sets the tone with his synths before his vocals kick back in, and that time spent waiting only builds the crescendo to satisfying levels.

Worst Song: Album opener "Striker" is a true head-scratcher. Why on earth would you lead off an album with such a subpar offering. Sure, it's plenty upbeat and it sets the electronic/synth tone for the album, but the lyrics are so awful that "Driver" becomes straight up silly, not to mention that Sakas is using a Julian Casablancas-approved vocal distortion, although the Strokes' lead singer sounds a whole hell of a lot better. Lines like "I wanna know what you're feelin' / I wanna know why you're lyin' to me / I wanna know why you're holding back / I need to know why you won't call back." I'm no relationship expert, but I think it's because you just rhymed "back" with "back."

Suggestions: Try not leading off with the whiniest song on the album. Everybody hurts, as REM said it, but let your listeners get to know the less annoying you before boring them with the details of some failed relationship. There is plenty to like about Albatross and its unique -- for Arizona standards -- electronic stylings, but if singing style and lyrical content are taking a backseat to all that, then the album's cohesion won't work at all. Let's look at Sakas' CD Baby profile:

The electronic rock debut from this magnetic singer/songwriter/producer/mega-artist is peculiar yet somehow familiar, heaving with textured synthesizers, superb sequencing, and dark arrangements that create a captivating, distinctive soundscape which propels an ever- expanding fanbase and critics into pop culture pandemonium.

You know what's missing from that description? "Unique, well-written lyrics." You know why? Because they don't exist on this album.

Grade: C+, because the tracks showed up on Gracenote and the overall presentation of the CD was very professional.

If you're a musician from the Phoenix metro area and would like to have your music reviewed in You Asked For It (our first-come, first-served and often harsh record review column) please send it in an envelope marked "YAFI" to:

Michael Lopez
You Asked For It
c/o Phoenix New Times
1201 E. Jefferson Street Phoenix , AZ 85002

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Michael Lopez