I have had this blog almost a decade. In that time, it’s grown as I have grown. My taste in music has always been eclectic and varied, but what I was reviewing was pretty safely within modern folk and very ska and reggae focused for a long time. My husband had tried unsuccessfully to pull me into the jam scene for years and I guess I just wasn’t ready to let go of all my preconceived notions yet because I resisted. Then one day while driving his car, Twiddle came on. Something in the song I heard resonated within me, and it wasn’t surface. It was deep. It reached into me and found a place that was parched and hurting and doused it in understanding. It had been a long time since a song hit me that hard, and I got curious. I started to dissolve their whole catalog and career up to that point. It led me to other artists I devoured just as hard. It led me to shows and festivals. Twiddle was my gateway to this scene – a place I have found love, acceptance, friends, and so much to write about.
Beyond Twiddle, I have been a fan of Mihali on his own for a while. I have seen him cover Round Here from the Counting Crows, one of my very favorite songs, in such a manner than I found myself screaming along in tears. A few years ago while interviewing Aqueous in the hospitality tent at a festival I was covering for this blog, Mihali strolled in and had a seat with us. He was delightfully kind, which was appreciated when I fully expected him to act in line with his success. (something I have encountered all too often since starting this blog) It was a wonderful surprise that I take great pleasure in telling people who decide to talk trash.
I guess that’s part of the reason I have been so damn excited for this solo record from Mihali to drop. I have been craving more of that vibe that pulled me in so hard. The record, Breathe and Let Go, is everything I had hoped it would be. It has the uplifting soul and deep feel of someone who has so much to say, but words don’t say enough so he artfully crafted music to narrate that train of thought. While you find words sung by a voice so uniquely Mihali, you also find and entire album’s worth of musical explorations to carry you where you need to go.
The album kicks off with the title track and its bright acoustic entrance, flavored a short time in with some steady beat and words that I think I really needed lately. “Breathe and let go, relax and go slow, let your life unfold…” Mihali is narrating a string of thoughts that I think will resonate with a lot of people in these tumultuous times when we are not sure if our path is the one we should be on, and that maybe we think about that too much. Or at least that was my take. The song Stubborn Smile was one that was released a short time ago, giving us all a taste of what was headed our way. It quickly became a favorite of mine. It’s that light reggae feel with fun sing a long vocals that we can relate to hard these days. I have always loved the thoughtful and reflective way that Mihali constructs vocals. It’s one of the reasons I loved Twiddle so much. Mihali sings songs I can so deeply feel, not just hear.
The track Enemies is stellar on its own, but it’s even more delicious with the talents of Matisyahu laced throughout. It has this deep, get-low kind of groove that infects you with a feeling that shakes your hips good and slow. I am digging hard on Mihali’s vocals on this one. His voice is very uniquely his, but I like what he does with some of his higher edges on this. Carved Lines is another good one that plays with acoustic guitar and self reflection. I like that stripped down sound so much. As much as I like Mihali as part of a powerful and talented four piece band, I really dig his work in a singer/songwriter role as well. It suits him just as well. I also really love Over Land and Sea. It reminds me of so much of the 60’s folk flavor I have been covering myself with my entire life, care of my parents and their deep love of that scene. It’s a stripped down song about love, simple and soulfully delicious. This song and it’s feel is everything I love so much about music.
My favorite song on this record didn’t surprise me, because it’s the first solo song I knew of Mihali releasing a million years ago – Fading State. I have been loving this song for a while! The track features guest vocal from Nahko and Trevor Hall, creating a triple threat of vocal groove and vibe that kicks you good and hard in the soul. My background and deep love for all things ska, reggae, and rocksteady lit up the first time I heard this track. I love so much about the feel of this song. Its not like the other songs of deep personal reflection, and instead seems a call to action – and man, do we need that. “It’s time to wake up”. That’s an understatement, gentlemen. We should be playing this song loudly right now, sharing it with everyone we know, and inspiring that awakening. I see this as an anthem for the balance of this year while we navigate this storm together.
All in all, the album is thick and warm with feeling. It illustrates the broad stroke of Mihali’s pen, and I love that it really shows his soul wide open in its words and feel. You don’t need to dig Twiddle to appreciate what he has done here. This record was well worth the wait, and I look forward to playing it on repeat this weekend. There is so much to love. Much like life. You can find it streaming everywhere right now, and I encourage you to get on that immediately.
You can catch Mihali out on tour in support of this record with friends like Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, Luke Mitrani, and Rich Ortiz. He puts on a really great show, and I plan to head out for the Bowery Ballroom show on March 31st myself. I hope to see you out there!