The Vancouver, British Columbia singer/songwriter Nick Mintenko graduated with a diploma in Jazz Studies from the Victoria Conservatory of Music back in 2013. Since then he has toured extensively with many other bands and released the record What I Thought I Knew back in March of 2013. That record received positive reviews and brought some early success to its creator. The songs on his latest record Still I Remain have an acoustic pop rock style to them but one can hear the tempoed jazz influences running throughout nearly every track on this record.
It’s bit of a breath of fresh air as far as singer/songwriter records go and reminded me of a bit of Paul Simon at his funkiest. Along with Mintenko who provides lead vocals and also plays acoustic guitar, and electric guitar and bass, the other players are Marc Atkinson who also plays acoustic and electric guitar, as well as drums, keys, and percussion, Jeff Poynter who plays the saxophone, and last but not least the two beautiful backup singers Eryn Sharpe and Kim June Johnson who help to round out these songs in a way that keeps Still I Remain from sounding like just another singer/songwriter record.
The record’s ten tracks are slow and very melodic, and it seems like Mintenko really took the time to measure out each song and decide what roles everyone and every instrument would play. The songs seem very structured which I liked because so often I find that musicians let things just come together through a jam session and then they track it and call it a day. This works sometimes, but not always and one hears the well carved difference on these songs.
Still I Remain opens with the slow and soft folky ballad “If Nothing Else” which rolls and unfolds its melody slowly but surely. By the end of the song you feel ready to hear what’s next and “She Talked While Singing” flows along beautifully. A soft drum beat and a hint of synths that bounce along sweetly give this song such a beautiful fervor, as do the sweetly harmonized vocals. He takes it up a notch to that Paul Simon funkiness I spoke of earlier on “Still I Remain” a syncopated pop tune and one of the catchiest songs on the record. Why isn’t there more stuff like this on the radio? I thought to myself as I replayed it over and over. It’s just that catchy and wonderful, every component working masterfully.
With each subsequent track on Still I Remain Mintenko deepens the feeling tweaking things here and there just a bit so that the songs sound as though they could only be played in this order. The record gently expands like a balloon slowly taking on air. Later tracks like the brilliant “Tender Eyes” and simple yet poetically perfect closer “Home” really help to wind it down so that afterwards the listener is left with a sense of closure and peacefulness. Still I Remain is a record full of talent and heart, and it proves that it’s really all it takes to make a great record.
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