Anthony Michael and The Ivy is the solo project of Anthony Michael. Living the majority of his life in Melbourne, Australia, Michael has been a lifelong musician. The culture and experience of his life shows through the music he creates. Picking up the piano at age four, he has moved through playing saxophone in jazz bands to singing and touring in pop-punk bands (Escape To Neverland, for example). In his new project, he is trying his hand at something very close to his heart. It’s folk rock but with a real kick. Elements of orchestral instrumentation is a great representation of Michael's extremely varied musical taste.
His latest four-track EP entitled January opens with “Heartbeat.” A short opener coming in at the 51-second mark, Michael proves his ability as a songwriter instantly by packing a heap of emotion and musical talent into a track which doesn’t even scratch one minute in length. Driven by a rapidly-strummed acoustic guitar, synthetic strings and passionate vocals, I really liked this opener. Michael’s country-styled vocals reverberate above the melodic chaos of the instruments beneath. Ending on an elongated string note, it’s the perfect start to this short EP. The song packs all the elements of Michael’s sound into a concise track, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
“Father” is another beautiful track. I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the instrumental consistency between this track and the first, as it doesn’t necessary offer variety in a musical sense, but this is a track which focuses on words and the emotive nature of the vocals themselves. The lyrics are truly gripping. Michael sings, “But I’ve got something in my blood / And it feels like mud / And I can’t seem to scrub it clean / And I can feel in my veins / Coursing through me / Causing pain.” I could go on to quote every line of the track because they’re all this poignant. Every single line feels delicately hand-picked, and everything packs meaning. It’s hard not to like this track.
“Everything Is Not Fine” slips into a gentler country vibe. Gently crashing percussion, a softly strummed acoustic chord progression and bursts of harmonica drive the majority of the track. Splashes of deep brass instruments harmonize with the other instruments at moments during the piece. Vocally, I wasn’t quite as blown away on this track. In terms of a performance. Michael’s talent shows through. His songwriting is on point, his performance is beautiful, and everything gels well together. I just didn’t feel that emotional kick on this one, personally.
I find it hard to pull apart the title track “January” from the previous track. It’s driven by acoustic guitar and harmonica with splashes of strings and a slightly more ballad-esque chord progression. Michael’s vocals are soft and sweet, but it’s the first two tracks on this EP which sold me on his sound.
While the final two songs are well written and performed, I felt a real energy in the first two. The second two focused on a gentler and more atmospheric sound. That’s good, in a sense, because it means Michael is diverse in his musical approach and he’s capable of creating a unique and varied sound.
All in all, this leaves me excited to see a full-length release from Anthony Michael and The Ivy. I’d much rather see a varied album with a few tracks that don’t pull at my heartstrings than one which is consistent all the way through but tiresome because of it. This is a great listen, but a very short one.
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