Adam Guzman’s eponymous album Adam Guzman is good throughout with some notable high points. I would describe the style as indie-rock with really catchy pop-hooks. These hooks come less in the acoustic strumming or even distorted guitars than in Guzman’s vocal phrasing. There is a disappointing class of singer that can hit all the notes yet never make you want to sing along. That is not what you get here. While Guzman pushes himself to the limits of his vocal range, even breaking his voice against the rock face of the lyrics, the timing of his phrasing is always spot-on and emotionally valid.
Part of the reason for the strength of his performance has to be the amount of time spent living with these compositions. The songs were written and refined over five years, while the recording itself took place over the past two years. Guzman credits bassist Mike Acampora and drummer Bo Sonnenberg with helping him work through and “flesh-out” the record. The three are all former members of the Long Island emo band Sojourner. The recording and mixing were also completed in Long Island by Bradley Cordaro at Gramps Studios.
One of the noticeable traits of Guzman’s vocal-style is when he pushes his voice to the limits and ends up in a place halfway between heavy-metal mic-swallowing and his wheel-house of pop-crooning. It is a register that he owns and it keeps the dark notes in the lyrics from becoming too nihilistic while keeping the pop-balladeer in him from getting too saccharine.
For my aesthetics, he dances a fine line with this: my least favorite portions of the release are when he stays too long in the Conor Oberst-mode. We already have one Bright-Eyes and that is more than enough.
The strongest tracks are “Hope” and “Unsure,” second and ninth on the eleven-song album. “Hope” sounds like a happy-romp at first then becomes a visceral expression of frustration. There is no lyric sheet but I’m pretty sure that one line goes, “Now there’s fruit rotten on the vine, and it’s just old enough to soften God.” This, in his half-metal scream, is quite affecting.
“Unsure” begins with metallic guitar notes and builds nicely to an emotional anticlimax. Here he goes from “praying in a bathroom stall,” to “open up your legs for me” to “Who am I to love you?” to “put my clothes in the wash...” Guzman, it seems is wrestling with the big questions as well as the mundane facets of everyday life. Sounds like, well, Reality: 2019 edition. “Lanes,” “Decompose” and “Bled Out” also deserve special attention for those that want to dip their toes in before committing to sitting down for a proper album-immersion.
Adam Guzman, the artist, is an interesting lyricist, composer and performer. Adam Guzman, the album, is proof of that, well worth a listen. Go, ye, therefore….
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