M.Antonio offers four songs of introspective reflections on his debut EP Slingshot Diaries. It's a short, blunt affair, like a night of winter lovemaking. There is a coldness in the frank lyrics, which revolve around the general theme of loneliness. Yet there's also warmth in the glistening guitar work M.Antonio primarily employs to drive his music.
Stylistically the album siphons the heaviness of grunge rock with the melancholy of modern blues acts. The songs also show M.Antonio's garage rock pedigree at times, especially on the opener "Cornerstone" with the crunchy baseline and thick drumming. Mood swings are no problem for M.Antonio either. He goes from bitter confidence on the opener to bittersweet on "Halo," which uses ruminative chords over shaky percussion while M.Antonio delivers lines like, "Leave them trembling one by one / it's time to move along / we ain't done." Again, this frankness is one of his biggest strengths. Every word is given enough punch to make it meaningful but not so much to turn M.Antonio into a joke among listeners.
I'm not a big fan of "Honeybee." It's not a weak track in it's own right (he even experiments with backing vocal harmonies, I can't fault anybody for that), but it tries to replicate the more evocative "Halo" without much success, down to the almost identical, glassy guitar strumming. That's fine though because "Little Red Rooster" is where M.Antonio truly kills it.
The closer is so badass that I had to kick off my penultimate paragraph with that statement. It's a nasty, gritty, sinister cut where M.Antonio waxes existential, referring both to himself as the little red rooster and commenting, "There's been no peace in the farmyard / since my rooster's been gone." The electric guitar riffs are exactly what I want from my nightmarish blues artists, and of course there's the searing harmonica that cauterizes the wounds M.Antonio has delivered thus far. The string hits are seductive as hell, but the lyrics never let you forget that there is an element of danger in M.Antonio's music. This is the only track on the EP I'd qualify as an outright blues cut.
Slingshot Diaries isn't the easiest listen. It is a double-edged sword because its short track list works both for and against it. M.Antonio packs of a lot of emotion in a single cut, and while there are moments of catharsis, sometimes the mood can be congesting. Still, great musicianship and two wonderful tracks ("Halo" and "Little Red Rooster") make this more than worth checking out.
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