Saturday, June 28, 2014

Review: A Is For Atom - Song For You EP

The best source material for an artist clearly comes from real life and on his second EP under the moniker A is For Atom, New York transplant Mike Cykoski mines his personal experiences for five songs of bittersweet melancholy. While his first recording dealt with the pursuit of love and the deep desire for a relationship, Song For You deals with the other side of that equation, having loved and lost and learning to deal with the consequences. To accomplish this task, the artist draws deeply from the well of experience alongside some powerful literary allusions that work well in his intelligent indie rock digs.

Cykoski's no newcomer to the music world, having been part of a successful Denver band on the cusp of breaking big but, when those streams ran dry, he drew inspiration to pursue a solo career after auditioning for none other than Gavin DeGraw.
“That was the trigger on the path to becoming a solo artist,” Mike reveals. “I was in his apartment and he played many songs on the piano; they were all so good and he impressed me. It was right before he flew to LA to do the showcase that got him a record deal.”

Inspired by a passion for songwriting, Cykoski embarked on his own journey, taking classes at NYU and at Julliard, constantly learning and making the connections that would lead him in developing his own sound and musical signature. That sound has drawn him favorable comparisons to acts like The National and The Flaming Lips but it's still one that is very much his own. And on Song For You he continues to nurture it along, drawing together an eclectic soundscape to stand alongside his cerebral lyricism.
Song For You is undercut throughout with an element of pain, a bittersweet thread running throughout the five tracks even when the musical accompaniment suggests otherwise. "Load Up on Guns" gets things moving forward first, the bright, singalong composition contrasting with the almost militaristic and war-tinged lyric, Cykoski singing about the pain and loss felt through relationships. He brings in some interesting electronic elements to lend something unique while a persistent backbeat presses things forward.

The title track follows and is easily the most accessible and compelling of the bunch. Here Cykoski layers his solid vocal against a subtle backdrop, an almost jazz-influenced hit of guitar running throughout and helping to hammer home the power of the lyric. That lyric was inspired and drawn directly from the artist's life, being the last thing his ex-wife said to him, that he had never wrote a song for you. The poignancy of the lyric permeates the track and even when he employs some dissonant keyboard notes alongside, it rings true.
"Bombs Away" is a bit more upbeat, insistent guitar bridging the track through and through while the lyric builds upon the metaphor of an "all or nothing" approach to love, more war-themed imagery playing into the artist's songwriting. The melody is lighthearted but the lyric heavy as he sings, "War is hell," speaking of the difficulty of love and relationships, the guitar blazing a trail to emphasize the point. Such language carries along on "India" as well, inspired by the experiences of the artist's father and his work at a missile silo during the times of the Cold War. The pressures of the potential dangers and catastrophes inherent in such a position lend themselves powerfully to Cykoski's lament of love and loss, framed in a solid indie rock wrapping.

"The White Dress" is the artist's most cerebral track as he places himself in the shoes of Emily Dickinson's lover, attempting to pen letters back to the legendary poet. The arrangement, driven by piano and infused with flourishes of trumpet and more, is undercut with a sense of pain, the task of matching his lover's words clearly impossible but his task is driven ahead by that love in spite of the circumstances. Infused with plenty of literary references, this one is no doubt one of Cykoski's finer tracks on the EP.
Mike Cykoski's latest, Song For You, is a solid blend of creative instrumentation and solid songwriting. The EP's five songs draw from deep wells and present a somewhat sad but still hopeful look at love and life. And doing so with arrangements that continue to be interesting after the initial listen, Cykoski shows himself to be a force to be reckoned with and is hopefully a voice we'll be hearing from again soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment