“My New Head” LP by Fredo Viola
Following an ominous but unapologetically expressive intro in the cold “Demolition,” we find the first few shades of color that will come to represent the thematic tone of My New Head in “Pine Birds,” the first single from the new album by Fredo Viola. A percussive entity shrouded in darkness gently nudges us forward, and in a chorus of distant vocals and a staggering set of guitar keys, we begin to feel the presence of Viola himself entering the mix. His performance will not turn towards the structurally typical until we make contact with “Waiting for Seth,” but even at this early mile marker in the tracklist, it is quite obvious that we’re in for a record like no other in My New Head this year.
“Clouded Mirror” thwarts the poppy essence of “Waiting for Seth” with an assaultive vocal as big as anything on Hēran Soun’s Undeaf, but with a sense of melodicism that record only flirted with. “Black Box” is just as much an oddball from a compositional point of view, but the harmonies it will unveil to the audience might be strong enough to make anyone a believer in Fredo Viola’s talents as a songwriter. There’s so much unabashed introspection here, but never a point at which it seems like we’re listening to an audible diary instead of a proper album. That’s hard to do regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry, but he makes it sound and feel like it’s relatively easy in this record.
“Kick the Sick” brings us into “Stars and Rainbows” with no uncertain experimentalisms, but strangely enough the latter feels like the more exceptionally abstract piece of material here. Viola gets spectacularly theatrical for “Sunset Road” and its gothic counterpart in “In My Mouth,” but had he not brought the panache that he did in these two songs, I fear they would have been overshadowed by the emotionally unbound “Edwin Vargas,” my favorite composition on My New Head. Though not quite the climax of the second act, this tune sent shivers down my spine the first time I listened to it and has remained one of the most consistent reasons why I play the entire record through when analyzing any portion of the material. It’s a release of tension that goes mostly unrivaled, but certainly not unaccompanied, by powerful predecessors.
Viola brings us to the conclusion of My New Head in “My Secret Power,” an orgasmic psychedelic jam that comes out of nowhere to make the end of this LP sound like something straight out of the mid-2000s indie folk movement but nevertheless feels like the perfect closer to include here. I hadn’t been keeping Fredo Viola on my radar before getting back into his work with the April release of this latest album, but it’s easy to understand why he’s captured the dedicated following he has after taking even the most cursory of looks at what he’s accomplishing with this content. My New Head is a story of self-awareness above all else, but beyond this, it’s a great way to get into a criminally underrated artist.