Bar Exam: Andy Mineo – 1: The Arrow (EP)
A One Listen Album Review
Andy Mineo has been involved in the CHH game for a good minute. Going from C-Lite to Saturday Morning Car Tunez to Heroes for Sale and Uncomfortable straight into our hearts. Not really… ok maybe really though in the homes of CHH-heads, Mineo is a household name. The last time he dropped a solo project was 2015, and while we heard that Magic & Bird album just last year, it’s been awhile since we’ve heard Andy on his own. Needless to say when he announced a new release at the beginning of the week, we were hyped. Andy has been open about his struggles with faith and anxiety among other things these past few years, so I was intrigued to hear how that journey has affected his art. Time for a bar exam.
I’ve Been… – Track one’s beat stutters into the song while Andy shows his singing versatility “I’ve been lost for some time.” It’s a trippy beginning to the EP. Andy flows about how he woke up needing a new dose of truth but gets distracted. The song only goes for about 2 minutes, but he did a great job of bringing us into his brain here and touches on some nostalgia before the song ends.
Clarity- With a piano interlude at the top of track 2, Andy explains that having a fog around you is part of the journey. The instrumental is a bunch of different things looping, there’s a vocal sample, a piano and a guitar on loop. It sounds unorthodox but it definitely works. Andy’s voice is reserved and chilled out. He’s rapping a pause heavy flow.
“Uninspired/undefined/now somebody’s gettin’ fired/terrified/paralyzed/twitter game verified/married life very fie/understand/on demand/undermanned Son of Man/or Son of Sam/somewhere in between the two/meaning to/spend the evenin’ be with you/oh I know/ I need it too/ do I believe/believe I do/on my faith walk/took the cynic/I mean/the scenic route/get lost/I be aloof/Adidas on/still need the Boost/”
He continues on this flow, touching on how the church is still at work but so is hell. He makes statements about how we fail, but he’s no better. “All my heroes are frauds just like me.” The instrumental intensifies as a sample of a woman talking about doubt moves to the front of the mix. “Without doubt you have no change.” Immediately once this sample fades away, Andy goes IN. He’s talking about how his adult faith walk has involved unlearning things he gleaned from sermons and moving away from the idea of white Jesus ultimately arriving to the conclusion that clarity isn’t the opposite of doubt – it’s when we’ve got it all figured out. It’s a very strong performance from Andy.
All Our Heroes Are Failures
Family Photo – “The next song is dedicated to Joe Mineo the legend.” Andy tells the story of how his dad didn’t show up to his wedding. “Everyone smile for the family photo/but everyone really ain’t in the picture.” Most of his wedding day was spent worrying about his dad. He moves from the storytelling vibes into yelling at a muse. The muse in this instance is his father. He closes out this song with a serenity prayer, asking that God grant him contentedness in each moment in this life, and supreme joy in Christ in the next life. This song shared emotions from all across the spectrum. Once again he began the track reserved, busted out in the middle, and mellowed again at the end. I’m not sure if it’s a creative decision to keep flippin’ a switch like that in the middle, but I do know that it’s causing the songs to sound extremely similar.
Anxiety – This one kicks off with Andy singing about how he can’t sleep. He’s trying to breathe, he feels like he’s drowning. He’s telling himself things will be alright. This track plays like a skit.
I Ain’t Done – The instrumental here begins with a buzzing loop and banging bass. “I ain’t done as long as there’s breath in my lungs.” Andy gets into a melodic verse here. A lot of distortion in the soundscape. “Death to my depression and anxiety/death to all my stressin’ what I’m trying to be.” Andy’s second verse tackles ideas of mental health and depression, how he’s still pushing through and won’t quit. This song is crazy.
The final track of the EP uses similar sounds as the opening track. This move makes these two tracks work together – “I’ve Been…Lost.” There’s a lot of singing here, and it moves into a full choir sound and all the sudden we’re on an ultralight beam. “Lord how long am I gonna fly sideways/this how the 12 must’ve felt on Friday….you never said I wouldn’t go through it/you just said I wouldn’t be alone.” As long as the sun’s out we’ll be alright.
Light At the End Of The Tunnel
A lot of times… okay I’d actually submit that most of the time… especially when dealing with the topics that Andy is dealing with here, artists love to stay in the darkness. Creative people are different like that. Creatives are able to touch on certain emotions and feelings that others can’t and in ways that others can’t. Sometimes the darkness is very real and it’s easier to just stay in the darkness either until you’ve figured a way out, or until you’ve brought some other people into the darkness with you. Andy is intentional here to point towards hope. He doesn’t have it all figured out, but he pointed to the light just enough that we’ve been given a glimpse of the hope that we need. Mad props to Andy for pointing towards the way out. Life’s not sunshine and rainbows, but there’s no need to quit. In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world.
If Andy Mineo’s music has felt safe and in a box for you in the past, that’s not what you’ll experience here. I heard someone who is not only speaking on faith and doubt with depth, but someone who is trying on a new voice and new sound. It’s refreshing to know that someone with Andy’s track record is embarking on a journey such as this. While it’s hard to know if these new sounds will work on longer projects in the future, Andy has outdone himself here. This is his Therapy Session but with a light at the end of the tunnel. My only criticism is that the construction of each song felt formulaic. Once he found a formula he stuck to it for most of this project. Besides that, there’s an awful lot of stuff to appreciate. The creativity, the honesty, the density of his content paired with evocative and emotional musical performances “1: The Arrow – EP” is above The bar.
Overall Rating: Above The Bar