Good beats can mean the difference between making a great track and producing straight throwaway filler, and in the case of Andy Michaels new LP Incendiary Heart, every pulsing element of the rhythm counts as much as any verses do. Take the song “Only Change Stays the Same” for example; in the staggered beat of the drums, we hear a story unique and distinguishable from the one being told by Michaels from behind the mic. He’s using every tool within his reach on Incendiary Heart to make us feel everything he’s experiencing in his own life, and while the album isn’t devoid of some self-indulgence in a few relatively acceptable instances, it’s a lot more efficient and to the point than a lot of similarly-designed records would be.
The video for “Darling It Hurts” is fantastic, but I don’t think that it’s the only song that could be adapted for the screen at all. Honestly, there isn’t a lot of material on Incendiary Heart that doesn’t sound single-worthy, with some tracks like “Humming Bird,” “Sticks and Stones (featuring Carolyn Thomas)” and “Rambling Man” certainly sounding as imagistic as their visually-supported counterpart does. You can tell right off the bat that Michaels has a deeply personal investment in all of this music, because even when he’s playing to stylistic familiarities more than he’s actually experimenting, he puts so much of himself into his performance that there’s no room for us to debate whether or not he’s being real with listeners in every way.
I wouldn’t mind hearing an electrified remix of “Only Love Knows the Meaning of Goodbye,” a solo version of the title track and “The Flame,” as well as a purely acoustic take on “Night and Day” at all. There’s just so much flexibility in Andy Michaels sound that it would almost be too hard to resist the urge to cut a couple of different versions of these songs in particular, but I can appreciate why he would want to save that kind of magic for his stage show exclusively. I haven’t seen him live myself, but if the presence he’s got in this record were to translate well in that situation, he could have one of the more interesting shows worth seeing in the year 2020.
Incendiary Heart presents us with an Andy Michaels who is definitely going places in this business, and while I’m just now starting to get into his music, I’ll be checking out his deeper discography after having fallen in love with this latest release for sure. He’s got a lot of talent that, I believe, he’s just starting to make complete use of, and if he finds some success with any of the songs on this record, independent pop on both sides of the Pacific will be a lot better off for it. Michaels is at the start of an incredible journey in this LP, and though he’s got a long distance left to travel, songs like “I Can Fly” and “This Songs for You” remind us that he’s more than up for the trip ahead.