The flurry of string melodies. Gilded vocals that intertwine with adjacent instrumental harmonies. A rhythm that swings just hard enough to make our hearts gallop right out of our chest but falls short of tiring us out to the point of missing the next song. This is Mike Donello & the New Essentials’ self-titled debut EP, and to say that it is all about spiking traditional rock blueprints with a soulful groove or two just wouldn’t be doing its one of a kind beats justice this February. Led by the incomparable Mike Donello, the New Essentials dig into five frills-free pop treats that cross genre boundaries as often as they intoxicate their audience with vivid textures of the most provocative nature. “Roll” gets us onto an emotional rollercoaster that seems to settle whenever the easy sway of “Setting Things in Motion” overtakes the speakers. “Southside” begs for the listener to take in the sexy lyricism of a more refined voice – the same voice, I might add, we find in the middle of “Fun and Games” and “A Better Day.” There’s a yin and a yang to every verse on this EP, and that can’t really be said about most of the records dominating the charts this late winter season.
Mike Donello isn’t using lyrics alone to express himself in these songs; in fact, I would say that his words aren’t even the most communicative element in a track like “Setting Things in Motion.” There are a lot of evocative details for us to take in on this extended play, starting with the relationship between the bassline and the other melodic instruments in “Fun and Games.” With as much of a bludgeoning effect as it creates on the grind of the drums, you would think that the vocal would need a little extra volume to stick out in the grander scheme of things here, but nothing could be further from reality in this instance. By keeping things on a sonic equilibrium, the New Essentials are steering clear of making another one of the overindulgent blunders their closest rivals in the American underground have been turning out in droves these last few years.
If what I’m hearing in this first record is giving me any sort of an indication as to what we can collectively expect to hear out of Mike Donello & the New Essentials in the next half-decade or so, I think they’re going to be in for quite a bit of success as the 2020s start coming into focus. There aren’t a lot of bands that have as much going for their sound as these guys do – there’s enough of a danceable pulse to please the pop fans, definitely a vocal harmony inside of every song pulled directly from the blue-eyed soul playbook, and even a rock n’ roll energy to the construction of the material that induces those familiar chills commonly associated with stadium shows. It’ll be interesting to hear what they come up with next, and I doubt I’m the only one who thinks so.
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