Leo Harmonay – Astoria

Across 11 lengthy tracks, Leo Harmonay has a lot to say with his most recent album Astoria. Starting from its peppy almost disarming opening (We All Know), one would believe you’re going to dive into a feel good journey across nostalgia and memories. The latter is more certainly true, but you check any notion of “feel good” at the door. The album is a meditation on preparations for the end. At no point sounding religious or even overly spiritual (save for the mention of Ram Dass in the seventh tracks title), anxieties of death permeate across this record.

Ranging from discussions of life experience and how your actions have impacted your life, to examining the fears of health as the body begins its final stages. Haunting lyrics like “and maybe this will be the day, where everything gets resolved” land like a punch in the gut and if subject matter like this isn’t your cup of tea, you may want to look elsewhere for a new album. For others like myself craving a sense of catharsis and mutual understanding of the fear of the unknown, you couldn’t look for a better place.The album’s first half is a decently steady pace seemingly telling various stories from a narrator as the joys of nostalgia begin to give way to buried secrets and trauma. Many times the songs act as conversations less between the artist and the audience, but the audience and himself. A lyric claiming “you’re a picture of a worn out dream” on my favorite track “Running Around” feels so targeted at Harmonay himself, you feel the devastation.

 The album isn’t punishing, and no one going into it should expect that it’ll be morose acoustic guitars with droning sorrow oozing from Harmonay’s vocals.In fact a lot of the music has a very playful energy to it with tracks like “Running Around,” “Fading Away” and its closer “You Are The Light.” Each track is an immaculate highlight in some regard for Harmonay to incorporate a stronger musical texture, from violins, an almost hip-hop inspired break down, to experimental wailing vocals from his female backing and other surprises not worth exposing in this write up. It’s always a joy to listen to an album that feels like every little detail was thought through.

Nothing about this album feel ancillary and I wouldn’t cut a single track. Despite some lengthy run times on the tracks some nearly six minutes long, they never overstay their welcome. The ending track “You Are The Light” might be my favorite tonal dissonance on an album effectively executed in sometime. It’s so shockingly upbeat despite remaining fairly obtuse as to what the “light” Haromany is referring could be. It’s like when you experience a moment of grief, climb in your car and you’re greeted with an upbeat pop song. It kind of makes the hurt a little worse. Harmonay believes the word love is overused, but he’ll have to forgive me as I truly loved this album.

Mindy McCall

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