“And when the night is over / And daytime reveals your new lover / One more cigarette / One more coffee / Will help replace your torn cover” sings an aching Andy Michaels, his words reflecting the heaviness of the string harmony he’s detaching from the back of the master mix of his dark ballad “Night and Day.” Michaels has nothing – and nowhere – to hide in this song and all fourteen that are occupying the tracklist of his new album Incendiary Heart, and while this is one of the more brutally honest moments in the record, it’s not even close to being the only example of his bluntness.
The guitar is a big star in Incendiary Heart, sharing the spotlight with Tiarna Madison in the title track while filling in the edges surrounding the harmonies Kerry Ironside draws together so seamlessly in “The Flame.” In “This Songs for You” and “Fireflies,” there’s nothing powerful enough to take the focus off of Michaels’ voice, but for the most part, I wouldn’t say that the songs on this LP favor one component over another very often at all. This is a diverse setlist made for the stage, and I picked up on that the first time I listened to the LP in its entirety.
Michaels made the EQ pretty beefy throughout Incendiary Heart, and in the Carolyn Thomas-featured “Sticks and Stones,” “Rambling Man” and new single/music video for “Darling It Hurts,” the details within the instrumentation are raised to the surface more through smart mixing than they are any fancy compositional practices. This isn’t to say that the music here doesn’t feel organic through and through (nothing could be further from the truth), but rather that there’s a lot to lauded about the production value itself, which wasn’t the case with Michaels’ first album, the ironically-titled Revisited.
I think it would be really fun to hear “Humming Bird” and “Planet 8” (with or without Sharon Court) live sometime, but as I mentioned earlier on, all of the material on this record sounds like it would blossom really nicely in front of a crowded concert hall full of people eager to have a good time. “Only Change Stays the Same” is another tune that could be reworked in a thousand different ways depending on the venue, setting and Michaels’ own interests in live performing, which makes me all the more titillated at the idea of hearing how he would play them in-person for myself.
Despite my status as only a casual observer beforehand, I think that Andy Michaels has made a genuine fan out of me with Incendiary Heart, which ties together a lot of the loose ends left over from Revisited while staying true to the conceptual identity he started to build with the release of his very first song. It would be wise for him to let these creative juices simmer a bit more before he considers entering the studio again for a third LP, but if he does step on the gas with any aspect of his career in 2020, I hope for it to be his touring schedule, as audiences around the world could use someone with his panache to start the new decade off right.