Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review: Damion Suomi - Self Titled (* * * *)

Folk songwriter Damion Suomi will be releasing his debut album, Self Titled, in stores next week, though the record is already available at P is for Panda to download if you feel the need to get a hold of it sooner. Suomi makes emotionally charged folk-rock tunes, which he says were influenced by Irish culture, with the drinking, the pubs, and the drinking at pubs to deal with lost and broken relationships. The record feels grounded and familiar in the best possible way, "a mix of hope and despair," says Suomi, that makes for another of this year's solid singer/songwriter albums.

The record starts things off with a couple up-tempo acoustic rockers, the soaring "Archer Woman" and the intense, driving "Darwin, Jesus, The Devil, & Me," the latter of which finds Suomi dwelling intently on the point where faith, science, and reason collide. He explores similar philosophical territory in "Save Your Ass," a heartbreaking story of the loss of belief that mixes electric guitars, horns, and strings in a beautiful mess of emotion and melody. Apart from these few deeper, contemplative moments, Self Titled generally slips into more booze-induced territory about the frustrations of relationships, whiles the music stays simple and direct. The drunken 'friends with benefits' ballad "What a Wonderful Game," shows the sort of honesty that only reveals itself after a few too many beers, while "San Fransisco" is rowdy and lonely, featuring some jangling piano and pounding drums behind hazy vocals containing plenty of recklessness and abandon.

The sincerity embedded so thoroughly into each tune gives the album a raw, emotional edge and makes the music especially compelling. Depending on your mood, Self Titled may be too much of a downer to listen to all at one time, but Suomi knows how to tread the line between sadness and despair, always singing his songs with a sort of implied smile that lets you know he's hopeful despite the heartache. Also, even at the loneliest, dreariest moments, his writing, along with his wit, is generally quite sharp and his stories entertaining. Self Titled may be an album built from one man's experiences, but I imagine its message will ring true to many.

Check out Damion's MySpace page to hear some tunes from the new album.