Every time that I listen to Waiting On An Island, I fall more in love with it. This is the first record of the year that is love at first sight for me, and it will definitely be in my personal Top 11 of 2011 and maybe even my Redefine Top Five of 2011 — so stay tuned!

Listen to “This Island” – DOWNLOAD MP3

Michelle DaRosa’s voice reminds me of a singer-songwriter whom I randomly came across a few years ago, going by the name Devojka. I instantly fell in love with Biljana Mirkovski, her given name, just like I am currently falling in love with DaRosa. And, I mean instantly in the sense that as soon as her vocals enter on the first track, “This Island,” my jaw drops. Her voice, being part lounge, part country, and part siren, soon delivers the line, “Somebody once told me that happiness is mine and it ain’t that hard to find/ Can you tell me something else?” and, justly, my ears are smitten. There is the perfect balance of sweet and sour in the vocals and lyrics throughout the album and it is intoxicating.

But the amazing vocals don’t stop at DaRosa, as Tyler Odum harmonizes at times, backs at others, and even leads on certain tracks, such as “Into The Rain,” where he sings the fabulous line, “There’s a hole in this boat in my head/ I’m a tree selling leaves to pay the rent.” And his guitar work is equally impressive in its varied tone and gait. “Never Let You Go” has a great 1950’s Fender Stratocaster twang — whether or not that is what is being used — as Odum starts out with segmented strums only to later take off with a decent touch of distortion in a bluesy solo of a bridge. The delayed vibration of the guitar intro to “It All Got Worse” elicits the same kind of sadness of which a piano would be capable. Fittingly, a piano joins the guitar later on, and this is emblematic of how the instrumentation is well-matched throughout the entire album. The guitar sounds assist all the other sounds for a super melodic album, and they meld the songs together in this unassuming importance.

Each track has a seemingly innocent and simple arrangement, but truly, this is the work of subtle details sporadically and wisely inserted, in everything from the xylophone sound in “Don’t Break My Heart” to the handclaps during the intro of “Smile” to the simple bass-line walk and tom drum march in “Leave The Light On.” If I were a record producer, on my list of things that bands should do once in their career is the task of creating their own version of a song like the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun.” Destry has uniquely and expertly done this in their number entitled “Gone,” where they harmonize the lyrics, “Oh I can tell that it’s gonna be sunny from now on/ Don’t you forget it/ If it tries to rain on you/ Just don’t let it.” It’s optimistic and quaint but not trite — just the right recipe.

Track six, “Alabama,” is my personal favorite, as it cuts loose at the end with a chant that I could imagine going on for much longer when performed live, working the audience into a frenzy. This song is a slow but intense seduction that then leaves you wanting more — very much like what Waiting On An Island does, as a whole album.

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