Leo Harmonay – “Astoria” (LP)
Leo Haronay strikes me as an enigma. Not in his music, far from it, it’s decidedly transparent and brutally honest, but him as a person. He is incredibly humble, reserved, and calculated. He would be the first to tell you he doesn’t consider himself an act, nor a trained musician. He believes his biggest strengths come from his heart and the ability to organically feel where the song is taking him as well as the listener.
MORE ON LEO HARMONAY: http://www.lharmonic.com/
He’s someone that allows the process to organically work through him, citing that sometimes his song writing process could take weeks, and other times when it clicks, he’s able to write it in ten minutes. He strikes me as an everyman, the type of person who feels right at home in the folk and soul genre. For someone who downplays his talents often, his music comes across as so meticulously crafted. With his newest release Astoria, Harmonay tackles some decidedly heavy subject matter that I’d be fooled to believe that it just free form flowed out of him. Full disclaimer, this critic is naively young, but I’ve always been fascinated by works of art that are decidedly introspective, especially from seasoned artists. Harmonay’s approach is to take something that I’m sure if you sat down with him and broke it down track by track, he’d relay anecdotes about where these feelings came from, but without it, it’s a melancholy journey from an aged narrator as he revisits his life and ponders his uncertain future.
Funny enough, for an album with a straight forward tone of melancholy, regret, and nostalgia, the soundscape on this record is rich and vibrant with plenty of flourishes both subtle and bold allowing each track to stand out on their own while also fitting cohesively into the larger narrative. After a rousing disarming start with “We All Know”, Harmonay’s voice evokes a kind of world weariness as he states in his track “Irony of Love,” “for a moment, I remember everything.” It’s evident that Harmonay pairs even the happiest of memories with a twinge of regret or an unspoken pain, like someone who can barely look at himself in the mirror. It should be noted that in a later track the phrase “I know I ain’t changed but I ain’t myself” is uttered. It’s not out and out self-loathing, but it has a very palpable pain thats carried from track to track. The only light spot on an otherwise moody album is its closer “You are the light” and if you’re expecting an anthem about the joy of connecting with a special someone, it’s more vague than that.
We never find out concretely who the light is, if it even is a person. As the album progresses, discussions and musings on death become more potent but never ham fisted. It is an incredibly thoughtful album, and truthfully one of my favorites of the year.