Note: Prior iterations of these blog posts were known as “Album a Day” in reference to my 2019 pledge to listen to an album every day of 2019. Such posts have been re-branded as “Album Anne-alysis” because I usually don’t end up writing a blog post until long after my initial listen for that project. I’m also not putting any pressure on myself to review every album I listen to, and I don’t want to imply that I am. I’ll write about albums as I feel like it, but only when I feel I’ve listened enough times that my opinions won’t waver much upon further listens.
Genre: Pop, but like with real instruments.
Total Number of Tracks: 13
Songs you might know:
– “Tiny Love”
– “Ice Cream”
My prior relationship with the album and artist: I’ve always loved the MIKA songs I knew, but had never taken the time to his whole catalog until 2019. I listened to this album’s lead single “Ice Cream” when it first dropped, and while I enjoyed it but not to the extent of “We Are Golden” or “Happy Ending.” Nevertheless, I was still excited that such a unique artist was back in the game with a full album on the way.
I listened to this shortly after its October 2019 release, and since then have only learned to love it more. I’ve urged friends to listen to it. If forced to choose, I would probably say it’s my top album of 2019 (but please don’t make me choose between this and Neotheater I beg you.)
My impression this time around: I’m sure that if you’ve read enough of my other album reviews, I come off as hard to please. Album A is a problem because all the songs sound the same yet Album B is a problem because it wasn’t focused and cohesive enough. The reason why I am so nitpicky about these things is plain and simple: it’s because albums like My Name is Michael Holbrook exist.
If you need songs for an upbeat workout playlist, you can find a track on this album for that. If you need songs for your sex jams playlist, you can find a track on this album for that. If you need songs for your introspective crying playlist, you can find a track on this album for that. This is truly an album that can do it all. And yet it still feels like every song was derived from the same artistic vision.
I think part of this is that MIKA does a great job of giving us vital middle ground songs. Songs like “Sanremo,” “Tomorrow,” and “Cry” are all that nice mid-tempo vibe that’s neither a vulnerable ballad nor a dance bop, and that allows the album to wander to either end of the extreme with ease. On the upbeat side we get “Platform Ballerinas” and “Stay High” which would’ve otherwise felt out of place on a slower album, but on the calmer side we have “Blue” and “Ready to Call This Love” which would’ve felt out of place on a more traditional upbeat pop album.
But I’d hate to listen to the version of this album that doesn’t have both “Platform Ballerinas,” a song that makes me want to pretend I’m making an aerobics instructional video, AND “Ready to Call This Love,” a song which makes me want to cry over every person I’ve ever loved. The album needs both, and MIKA’s the kind of artist who can pull off both without ever sounding like he’s out of his wheelhouse.
I also love the way that MIKA can make a song build. So many of these songs start simple, with nothing but a piano and a single voice. By the end of the song, we’ve gotten to a full orchestra and chorus (check out “Paloma” for my personal favorite example of this). So because each song contains a multitude of sounds and moods in and of itself, it can easily fit into the album’s much larger tapestry of sounds and moods.
My Name is Michael Holbrook is also a well-ordered album, meaning that your fastest songs tend to come right after slower, more somber songs. Every new track feels like a new, exciting departure from the previous track. That’s allowed this to be an album that I’m still listening to beginning to end even months after I first heard it, when my usual habit is just to skip around to my favorite tracks.
All in all, this is an album where the majority off the songs are off-the-charts amazing, and even the “weak” songs are maybe an 8/10 at the lowest. And even with the songs that aren’t my favorites, I still understand why they’re here and how they’re making the album stronger. “Blue” might be something I’d skip if I shuffled the album in with the rest of my music library, but it still brings an interesting mood and tone that’s unlike anything else on the album. That combination of consistency and variety makes My Name is Michael Holbrook a truly special album that everyone should listen to.
Who would enjoy it? I think this would be a great one for people who like the fun of pop music, but also like the sophistication of more complex arrangements and musicianship.