Bar Exam: Andy Mineo – 2: The Sword (EP)
A One Listen Album Review
In April, Andy Mineo released Chapter 1: The Arrow (EP). For me it was a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t safe, it was challenging and deep sonically and topically. Today he dropped Chapter 2: The Sword (EP), and without further ado let’s take a listen.
Almost… starts out with a chipmunk soul sample and fades into David James lending his voice to a melody. “What if your greatest fears are smaller than you think? What if your greatest dreams don’t happen when you sleep?” There’s a pretty busy bass line underneath him and some eerie synths surrounding his performance. All of this, paired with the questions being posed creates some tension here right away. This song flows straight into the next.
…There – The beat drops in, there’s a lot going on here. The synths that were once strung out and dissonant have now created a pulsating theme over the top of this instrumental. This bass line is really digging in and I can’t help but bob my head.
Humble thyself or God will/Youngin’ with a little drive like a Hot Wheel/Now it’s pop culture when you’re poppin’ pills right/Rather have us medicated than healed right?
Andy’s flow is nice here. It’s always impressive to me when artists can line up bars that don’t really rhyme. It takes some charisma and maybe a little bit of bending a word to get them to work together, but here it seems that Andy doesn’t really care about a rhyme scheme, he’s just explaining a lot of things that go wrong for him in life and how maybe he doesn’t sleep well when his head is full of all these thoughts. There’s a spot here that samples that 1998 song he dropped in early April. “Every sword got two edges/How will I be remembered?” It was at this point in April when I (wrongly) speculated a Neverland 2 release, (let’s let the past be the past…) but it’s pretty cool that he could throw back to that track and incorporate it in this series.
There’s a break between a Chorus and Andy’s next verse. This verse isn’t locked in tight with the beat, it’s kind of just laid over the top of everything. With him choosing to do this here, it’s an introspective choice. Rather than bobbin my head now I’m drawn in to give attention to each word. As this verse progresses, a beat filters in and matches what Andy’s doing. This is all well constructed and thought out.
Friends – The tune begins with some simple guitar chords and Andy singing over the top. Friendships are difficult. Sometimes people are confusing to deal with. This song so far seems to be melodies. Andy’s great at keeping your attention though. The textures and switching up the intensity as a song grows. Never mind there’s a flow here.
Got a lot of friends in air quotes/Dope moments, we share those/It’s weird yo people I don’t know actin’ like we are close/And lately all my new friends just my co-workers/So where I go when my soul’s hurting?
None Of My Business – The pacing of these songs makes it so the listener seems to be taking drinks from a fire hose. As soon as the melody of that last song fades, Andy’s in with another flow. He’s full of pauses here, and keeps it real. There’s a lot of people who may have opinions about you, and the true friends are the ones who “don’t talk about you they talk to you.” Otherwise Andy just stays minding his own business.
So far this EP is pretty low key. Seems like a group of a bunch of mid tempo tracks. There’s not as much energy here as there was with “The Arrow” but Andy is still doing his thing. He’s being transparent, and he’s perfected his craft of switching from melodies to bars and keeping me engaged as a listener.
Crazy – Starts with a simple drum loop and a familiar synth vibe. What appears to be the Chorus right off the bat, is an homage to the old Gaither Vocal Band (or John P. Kee) song “Standing in the Need of Prayer.” The verse here is pointed, with some humor, and some honest thoughts about how tough people can seem when they’re typing online. Life is crazy and sometimes people are crazier.
Donuts – Another chilled out vibe. Christon lends his vocals to the simple hook here and it all sounds terrific. Andy comes at his verse with the perspective of someone who is anxious and seems to be waiting for life to turn out all right. He’s also once again talking about his haters and critics. He feels petty but thinks of ways to get back at them. The flutes that drop in on this instrumental sound messy to me. I’m not sure they fit so well. Phonte brings the last verse here and it’s a masterful display of wordplay and cultural references. Did anyone catch the “Coming To America” line?
Shame – Josh Garrels greets us at the beginning of this last song. “You fly in circles around my head/While I sit on the edge of my bed/I cry what have I done again/Cuz I’m about to hate who I am” Andy comes in with a melancholy verse keeping it 100, explaining how he hopes to “one day be as happy as he pretends to be.” His last verse details his struggle with pornography and how even once he became a public figure he still struggles in private. There’s freedom in honesty, and ultimately in Jesus. As he wrote in all of these other tunes, he doesn’t care what you think and he’d rather be free from shame than be imprisoned by other people’s thoughts of him.
It’s a little rainy and gloomy outside here in Colorado today. I think this EP fits quite well with the weather. This project is only 23 minutes long, and so it’s a quick injection of these therapeutic lines from Andy once again. This go around seems to be a little more thoughtful and less fiery and passionate. What Andy has done with these EP’s has been less about putting out music, but it’s been more about crafting a moment. I was surprised to not hear any bangers or uptempo tracks on here today. I’m fighting in my mind when I consider the construction of it all and how well these songs bled together, yet the energy was quite mellow throughout. While there are less quotable lines on “The Sword,” I feel like it’s still got a place near the top of Andy’s repertoire, and sometimes it’s good to pave your own path to bring people something unexpected.