Review: Queens English by Mark Bacino

May 2010 sees the release, via the newly formed DreamCrush label, of Mark Bacino’s third album.

Mark describes ‘Queens English’ as ‘a melancholy love-letter to NYC & life in its outer-boroughs.’  What immediately stands out is that while the new album is more grown up than its predecessors it loses none of the joyous melodies and infectious fun.  The influences; such a Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson ring out but don’t overwhelm Mark’s own style.

There are a wealth of great tracks;  from the bouncy bubblegum of the titular track to ‘Camp Elmo’ which deserves to be in a Pixar movie.  From the  wonderfully laid back ‘Bridge and tunnel’ and the fantastic brass in ‘Muffin in the oven’.  Queens English snares you on the first listen and doesn’t release its right grip.  A contender for the top of the Albums of 2010.”

You can visit Mark’s website here.  You can buy a digital copy over at CD Baby.

Mark Bacino – Queens English

Queens English CoverI am very excited to present to you my first interview feature, especially for an artist as great as Mark Bacino. For over 10 years, Mark has been releasing great pop albums. “Pop Job” and “The Million Dollar Milkshake” are must-have albums for discerning pop fans. Add to the list his latest, “Queens English.” Keeping the great hooks, melodies, and pop sensibility, this album seems thematically more mature than the previous albums, and is an amazing set of awesome songs. I got the chance to ask Mark a few questions, and I thought I would share them with you here. Enjoy!

For more information, check out his website, www.markbacino.com, or the label releasing his new album, www.dreamcrushmusic.com. The record comes out tomorrow (5/18) but you can pre-order at Amazon.com now!

What influences your songwriting? I’ve noticed you write a lot about “the human experience”, is that a focus? You seem to be very interested in people; do you consider yourself very observant?

Obviously the human experience is really the only thing we all truly have in common, so as a songwriter wanting to make music that connects with folks; that subject intrigues me a good deal.  To cover that beat, I suppose, one has to be interested in people and be semi-observant.  I guess like anyone else, I’m taking it all in but as a writer I’m probably more apt to make a mental note when a particular situation or person strikes a chord in me personally.  For me, the best songs I write are the ones that are born from those little observations and detail a specific common occurrence or shared experience while also, hopefully, evoking a larger more universal theme at the same time.

Mark BacinoI’ve noticed you do a lot of writing and producing for other artists. How does that affect your own work? Are there specific things you take away from those experiences?

I have a fairly specific way by which I work on personal projects, it’s kind of insular and methodical so that, by nature, is pretty different from the way I approach working with others. While producing, obviously, you have to work in a manner that’s comfortable for that particular artist and it’s also, generally, a more collaborative affair.  When I work on my own thing, I kind of just fall into the same narcissistic groove, for better or worse; it doesn’t seem on the surface all that influenced by my other studio work but I suppose those outside experiences must seep in there somehow.  At least I hope they do.  Every time I work on a project with or for other folks I’d like to think, on some level, I’m taking something away and learning from that experience.  I’m hoping the same happens in reverse for the artists I work with as well.

How do you feel your process has evolved since your first record?

I think in terms of the production and recording process, I’m definitely more hands-on these days having produced this new record entirely myself and having done the lion’s share of engineered and mixing on it as well.  My earlier albums were always very hands-on too but a little more technically collaborative in that I had an engineer and co-producers, etc.

In terms of writing, I’d like to think I’ve evolved and grown.  Not to put down my earlier work, as I intentionally tailored a lot of it toward the more care-free side of things, but I think my new material has a little more weight or depth to it.  Ultimately the songs are an extension of me so as I’ve matured over the years, so has the music and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Mark Bacino singingA few songs on this latest record reminded me of Harry Nilsson, is he a big influence?

Harry’s always been one of my faves so I suppose the influence of his work is continually present in mine.  This album in particular is, indeed, pretty heavily infused with Harry’s spirit – both musically and inspirationally speaking.  Before I began this project, I was feeling fairly dissolution with the music industry and my role in it, etc.  I think I was just getting a little burned out working on outside projects and not feeling particularly inspired.  For some reason, around the same time, I was revisiting the Nilsson catalog, really diving in deeper than I had in the past.  In doing so, it struck me that Harry pretty much always just made music for Harry and followed his own artistic path.  Keeping that simple thought in mind I began to realize I really needed to take a break from the outside projects, dismiss the negative feelings I was beginning to have for the business and do something solely for myself, the music and the art of it.   “Queens English” is the result of that shift in mindset.  So thank you Harry, wherever you are, for helping me get back on the horse.

What do you look to accomplish with your records? I liked how Queens English seemed to almost be a chronicle of various happenings in a New York City neighborhood. Yet, with a few changed words, the songs could be a chronicle of any person’s life and city. So any listener can still relate to it.

Thanks, that’s nice to hear.  I hope it strikes a chord with folks and they get something positive from it whether it be pure diversion, entertainment or something a little more.  Really, that’s always been the main goal for any record I’ve ever made.

This new album is, indeed, very New York-centric so, to be honest, I kind of worried about that for a bit thinking that maybe people outside of NYC wouldn’t be able to relate.  After a while though I started to realize, as you mentioned, that ultimately the tunes have, at their core, a kind of universal thread running through them.  I think a lot of the subject matter touched on within the songs – a sense of place and neighborhood pride, the nobility of the working-class ethic, the trials and joys of parenthood – all, hopefully, make for a relatable experience, regardless of the listener’s geographic location.

Review: Hello Me To You by Victor Stranges

I initially started the review as; ” I received a disc in the post this morning from Victor Stranges.  Before I detail what I thought of it musically I must declare my bias.  I’m an atheist.  Victor is not.  Should you be able to separate the artist from the art?  Perhaps.  I struggle to listen to Christian Music because rightly or wrongly I feel” — and so I went on for another few hundred words before realising that it’s not really fair to talk endlessly about myself and so I put the album on the iPod, left the review for a few days and just listened.

The vocals are so like Elvis Costello that it almost seems redundant to point it out.  Having listened to album for a good few days I have to say that it’s definitely a grower.  ‘Not bad at all’ has a pleasing Pink Floyd opening before going on for over five minutes and slightly overstaying its welcome.  There are some rather dodgy lyrics on display; “You can restore an antique, but you can’t restore your mind.” to be found in ‘Restoration blues’.  But, i’m being over-critical.  I was certainly mistaken in my initial opinion that  it was ‘Christian Music’.  It’s written, produced and played solely by Victor it’s a pretty damn fine achievement.

I’m always swung by an opening and’ Is there someone to thank for all of this?’ is a gorgeous song, with a great melody and is only let down by the overly long outro.

Overall though the album contains a bunch of good upbeat songs and I feel i’ll be playing this a great deal more in the coming days.  I’d definitely recommend a purchase.  We’ve not heard the last of Victor Stranges and I for one look forward to seeing what he produces next.

Buy a copy at Not Lame or CD Baby.

Victor on MySpace: www.myspace.com/victorstranges, on the web at www.victorstranges.com and on facebook at www.facebook.com/victor.stranges

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