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Scott Mickelson – Flickering

Posted by on February 28, 2015

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“We’re still tragic and alive…
That’s how this one goes.”

Beautiful, heartbreaking, triumphant, intense – a panoramic of the human condition – Mickelson’s debut album pulls out all the stops and demands to be heard. By the time the last note echoes into the distance, life is shown to be clearer and, in the same breath, more mystical and incomprehensible than ever. The album is both mysterious and resonant, somehow accomplishing the evasive goal of being lyrically intelligent and universally accessible at the same time. The songwriting of the album is impeccable. Not one word is haphazardly placed, not one rhyme thrown in for convenience’s sake. Simply put, it’s a heartbreaking, life-affirming piece of art that grows stronger with every repeat listen. This particular listener is on his 5th so far, and has enjoyed every listen, and hasn’t pressed ‘fast forward’ on one track yet.

Beautiful instrumental choices – strings, horns, harmonies – flow in and out of the musical landscape. Every track ventures a deeper question about what it means to be human in this day and age. “Deaf Man’s Door” has a spare, lonely ache to it – the instrumentation pulls and draws the listener into the story. Knowing why won’t make it any better…the feeling in these words has a pathos that tells you all you need to know about the world. “Head’s Too Small” has a honky-tonk, playful vibe to it, full of individuality and spark, and a fantastic sax solo. I wear a crown, but my head’s too small to fill it/I’ll hunt you down, but I’m too weak to kill it. It’s a celebration on the paradoxes and futilities of life – but the cheerfulness of delivery tells us that perhaps the point is to enjoy the mess.  Each song on the album carries with it two things; First, an original story told the best it can be told, from a view wholly Mickelsons; but also, somehow, something that is entirely universal to the human experience. No album has ever felt so relevant, and needed, for today’s hopeful but desperate, times.

There’s something about the observations in Flickering that speaks an important message to today’s urgent, desperate culture, and our often-confused world of music. The way it is shamelessly itself and nothing else; and doesn’t pander to a radio audience or pop crowd; and yet, how it speaks about the issues of today in a way everyone needs to listen to.

“Hercules and Iron Man skewers our invincibility;

“Ten Ton Heavy Thing” and “Deaf Man’s Door” challenge our need to explain away all the terrible things that happen in life;

“In This House” is in a league all its own, taking one suburban X-bedroom little box and turning it into a reflection on memory, meaning, brevity of life, and hope.

Scott’s voice has an intense, urgent feel to it that doesn’t let up for one second. It harkens back to a time when words meant something – the voice of a prophet poet, telling us things we need to hear and that, deep down, we might already know. There’s something about good, powerful music that has the ability to slip between the hardened cracks of everyday life and speak to deeper truths. Mickelson’s debut album Flickering has it in spades. There are people who might not typically enjoy this particular brand of alternative, melodic, folk-rock energy – but there isn’t anyone who will be able to listen to Flickering end-to-end, with all of it’s spirit, poetry, pathos, and passion, and say “I was not moved” or “This is not a great album.” Great works of art hit home– they just do – at an undeniable, core level that every open heart needs and warms to.

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