Not quite a year ago I featured Andrew Choi’s St. Lenox project and their EP Five Songs In The Style Of Fritz Chrysler. Since then he’s got the band back together to record a full-length that comes out Tuesday January 20th. 10 Songs About Memory And Hope is already finding an audience, getting featured on NPR’s Songs We Love and some supportive tweets from John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. I enjoyed their EP quite a bit, and I’m happy to say that the new album finds the group pushing full steam ahead.
Choi and I, assumedly, are around the same age. On 10 Songs he takes a look back at the mid-90’s, a time when he was an award-winning violinist and I was in High School listening to The Gin Blossoms (a band he shouts out in the song “To Be Young Again,” to my great delight). While we had very different circumstances growing up, the time he sings about here was formative for us both, so there’s a lot here to which I can relate. Most of it is universal, though, so don’t think you’re missing out if you worked through the 90’s or are pretty sure your parents weren’t even born then.
St. Lenox toes a fine line through the whole endeavour, mixing loops and beats with standard instruments and a storytelling style reminiscent of a young Billy Joel. It’s experimental pop with sound both familiar and impossible to place. I could rattle off ten names that I’m reminded of while listening (Sting, Cee-Lo, David Gray, Lionel Richie, etc.), While Choi’s voice lends to much of the comparisons, the contrast comes in the music-an almost jazzy vibe comes through on tracks like “Just Friends,” with repetitive drum fills and bass holding together an eclectic mix of the bleeps, the sweeps, and the creeps.
The album succeeds best when they keep the tempo up, which is most of the time. The one track I find a little out of place is “The Greyhound Bus Song.” It’s just a bit too slow to maintain the energy of the eight songs that come before it. Unfortunate, because up to this point I could find really no fault in the album.
Most of the time I would say you need to listen to a whole record to know whether or not you really like it, but I feel like thirty seconds in to “I Still Dream Of The 90’s” you will probably have your answer.
I dig it. A lot. And I hope for a lot of people St. Lenox will be their first great musical discovery of 2015. Check out the band’s Facebook page for details on where to pick up a copy of 10 Songs About Memory And Hope tomorrow.