Mikey Joseph O'Connor - The Day I Stopped All This EP

Friend of Gas Lantern Media, leader of The Most Awesome Protagonist and co-host of It's A Thing! podcast, Mikey Joseph O'Connor [or MJO'C as I like to call him (rather, I've never called him that, but what the hell, I'm gonna try to start a thing and abbreviations {or abbreves} are totes in right now)] is not merely a proponent of the Ska'd for Life movement. He's also a talented singer-songwriter who generates tunes reminiscent of the sad-times Shins, The Replacements and with The Day I Stopped All This EP, a bit of almost-dub-steppy, Bon Iver-ian lamentative reflection. But beyond all the direct, sincere and vulnerable lyrics, O'Connor creates elaborate sonic tapestries that venture from subtle, folk rock beats to downright church-choral-style lovelorn-ness. Above all else this is a break-up album, and if I were to sum its sincerity and emotionalism into one word, that word would be Pinkerton. The Day I Stopped All This is fragile and angry, frustrated and nostalgic, heartfelt and seething, but it's also a sort of love letter to a bygone era. Or, failing that, a final, resigned, but sturdy, goodbye.

The EP opens with "(Not All) Pretty Blonde Girls are the God Damn Devil." It's a track that demonstrates mostly strongly, perhaps, O'Connor's signature scratchy, nearly-Westerberg-ian wail. That wail is what gives this song the extra dose of character that makes it so strong. Sung by a more "traditional" vocalist, the direct, clear, concise and vulnerable lyrics may have sounded twee or whiny, but here, O'Connor's voice feels as torn up as the lyrics would have you believe. Plus, the chorus and refrain, backed by graceful harmonies and some subtle drums, flesh out a song that could have easily been left spare and hollow. The result is that catchiness that runs through your head, and this writer's head. On "The Winter River Bridge" O'Connor paints an elaborate picture of not merely losing someone, but losing time and place in the process. And the chorus, oh em gee, the chorus, so thick with guitar, fuzz, and some vocal clouding effects, feels as catchy as that from "(Not All) Pretty Blonde..."

From that darker place, though, things pick up a bit on "The Best Last Day," a lively goodbye note or "thank you" with syncopated, jangling guitar and a chorus of backing "Oohs." It's a mature piece, really, that while still as dark as the preceding two tracks, is also something of an olive branch. It is the musical equivalent of seeing an ex months or years later, having reflected, and saying "It was fun while it lasted," while fighting the urge to hold up your middle finger. And the closer "Someone Smiling/Someone Shining" is one part Gilbert O'Sullivan, one part Leonard Cohen and one part, well... just Mikey Joseph O'Connor. It is a full, lush, pastoral track that feels like an old Polaroid of the girl you loved once, but can't any longer. The piano/keyboard work and wall-of-voices vocal complete the picture. It feels, if I may create a semi-hackneyed image from a film, like that one final look upon an old lover's photo prior to letting the wind carry it away into the ocean.

You can hear The Day I Stopped All This EP at Mikey Joseph O'Connor's reverbnation page here. Or just give it a listen here, via the streaming player below. And of course, listen to It's A Thing! and visit their website to keep up on all that world-hopping madness.

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