Album Review: “Emergency Songs” by Monk Turner + Fascinoma

emergency_songs_coverEmergency SongsMonk Turner + Fascinoma (Bandcamp)
I first discovered Emergency Songs completely by accident, while searching through the Free Music Archive for interesting things to play on my podcast. Scrolling through list upon list of artists and songs and albums, all available for me to listen to, I was searching for an inspiring way to pick out things to try. Previously in my life, when technology didn’t change everything, that inspiration would come from album cover art or CDs strategically placed in a $.99 bin or something else (once I obtained a pile of CDs by sitting on them…one of which was good), but when it comes to lists of text it wasn’t that simple.

Then I came across the name Monk Turner + Fascinoma. Maybe it’s because I loved Monks in first edition Dungeons & Dragons, or maybe it’s because I’ve been to a bazillion and a quarter Buddhist temples, or maybe it’s just because it reminds me of Thelonius Monk, but I’m a sucker for the name Monk Turner and that would have probably been enough to get me to click play, but the pseudonym Fascinoma is… dare I say it? … fascinating (I dare!). Add in addition the addition sign in place of a boring conjunction makes it a sure bet.

Seriously, that’s how I decide these things. Deciding things like that turns out well, quite often. It certainly did in this instance.

Emergency Songs opens with an a cappella number, Letter to the Los Angeleans (Before), that only hints at the vocals Alanna Lin (Fascinoma) is planning on sharing with the audience. A mellow, moody chorus accompanies her and it sets an interesting tone. It’s followed by a jaunty tune called Where’s My Horse that picks the listener up and carries them for a ride that lasts until the end of the album.

The album is composed of slightly-poppy, jazz-infused ballads that can stand on their own as singles, for the most part. Notable exceptions, like the tambourine-backed Whatcha Doing and the harder, faster HOLD ON, are surrounded by comfortably positioned among songs that are both so good and so high quality I honestly had to check and see if they were covers. It wasn’t because I thought an artist I found randomly on the internet was incapable of doing something well, it was that after only a short period of time with Emergency Songs added to my playlists, Lover Won’t You Hold Me, After Disaster and Trust Is Just A Word felt like they had been around longer.

That’s partially because the pair of artists did such a wonderful job with the sound of the album. It doesn’t feel dated so much as dateless – as if it could have come from nearly any time. It was if my mind was telling me that even if I hadn’t been listening to these songs for the last decade, I should have been. This does cause a couple tracks to suffer, like the beautiful Prisoner that sounds angelic as an individual piece but tends to get lost in the shuffle when dropped into a playlist full of similar songs.

What few shortcomings I can think of are overshadowed by the ability of the whole album to achieve a stronger impression than the individual songs. In an era of singles and mixtapes and mashups and stunt guest artists, it’s refreshing to see an album that is greater than the sum of its parts. Even before I learned that Emergency Songs is a concept album (the concept being a fictional but genuinely potential earthquake that devastates Los Angeles), I found myself going back to listen to the songs as a package rather than letting them pop up randomly.

Monk Turner + Fascinoma have succeeded in putting out one of the best concept albums in years, and they did it without the weight of a megalabel behind them. It isn’t a perfect album, but it’s damn close. Anyone that enjoys music meant to tell a story and evoke an emotion should give this one a listen. You should be able to find at least a track on there that makes you want to move your legs, bounce in your seat or just spoon with a loved one, even if you don’t enjoy the entire thing as much as I did. The podcast that led me to discovering this CD only lasted one episode, but these songs have found a permanent home on my playlist.

Find Emergency Songs – Monk Turner + Fascinoma on Bandcamp.
Score: A

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