There’s a lot to love about Andrew Choi’s musical persona St. Lenox. This is the third release of his that I’ve had the great joy of listening to, and each one is so full of interesting stories that I come back to them again and again. Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love isn’t out until the end of September, but I’ve been listening to it so much I couldn’t wait to write about it any longer. It’s really the best work he’s done yet and I hope he pushes the date up so you can hear it all sooner.
The first St. Lenox album was all about that feeling of not being a kid anymore, but not quite feeling like an adult either. The second took a close look at his family and Korean culture. Now he’s able to put all the focus on himself, and the results are brutally honest and inspiring. A lawyer by day, musician by night, Choi pours every drop of his life into Fables.
One of the things that impresses me the most about Choi is his ability to fit the music around what he wants to do. He’s not trying to sound like anyone else or use a formula proven to work, he does his own thing. He sings in complete sentences, like he’s having a conversation with you. He is having a conversation. It’s one-sided, but that’s ok. He says things that I don’t think other singer/songwriters would ever figure out how to work into a song. For example, in “Gold Star” he sings: “You’ve got a shot at the big time, son/they would say back in your hometown/but you don’t wanna go Gangnam Style with a shit-eating grin and bear it/cuz you have a stupid sense of pride/and you fall for it every time/gold star”
That kind of self-awareness seems so lost in popular music made by people so consumed by appearing to be cool. It’s one of the best tunes on an album from which I honestly have a hard time picking a favorite.
On my first couple of runs through the record I thought “You Have Got To Feel It” was the best because the vocals are so good and there’s some sweet sax in the chorus. Plus he lists a bunch of delicious vegetables that make me hungry every time I hear it. Then I started hearing other things around the tenth listen: the opening of “More Than Romantic Love” opens with the same tone as the first few chords of the Killers b-side “Desperate,” the way he makes emptiness feel so emotional on “Apparently,” and the musical experimentation on “Brooklyn Superdream.” And there are still a few others I didn’t mention that are just as good.
On the final track, “Don’t Ever Change Me New York City,” Choi cries out to hold on to his midwest values as he navigates the social mores of the big city. The song brings up the struggle of working full-time while trying to make art with integrity and the pressure to look or act a certain way to fit in. It’s a beautiful reality check that delivers the same mix of anxiety and hope I’ve come to expect from Choi’s songwriting.
There are a lot of great sing-a-long moments in these songs that make me wish I still had a car so I could drive around and scream these lyrics out the windows. It’s amazing that he’s flown under the radar for this long despite high praise from some big names. That should change immediately after you hear Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love. I guarantee you will want to share this with your friends.
You can pre-order the digital album here.