Every two years, Mike Hadreas releases an album that’s met warmly by the critics: Learning (2010), Put Your Back N 2 It (2012), and now his latest release, Too Bright (2014). This album is an x-ray of Hadreas: on the outside we see a fragile figure with delicate melodies to accompany it with a sense of stability and comfort found within.
Each track is a record highlight and seems to be crafted with extreme care and magnifying glass-precision. Then, it’s polished until it shines back Hadreas’ reflection. The album’s opener “I Decline,” is an eggshell-thin, modest introduction that constrasts with the second track “Queen,” a red-carpet entrance of sorts for Hadreas. “Don’t you know your queen?” he asks. A harpsichord-keyboard jingle is gold-encrusted, and chimes along with Hadreas. It’s a grandiose entrance to the album, but his image is nothing but dignified by the end of the album.
Hadreas is a master at balancing delicacy, or fragility, with weighty tones. For example, on “No Good,” the end of the song features a piano figure that withers away on top of strings (cellos and violins). It’s one of the album’s most somber moments as well as one of the most beautiful.
What works for Hadreas are his piano figures – they’re artful and they function like sound effects by replacing the noises of the surroundings. In the middle of “Don’t Let Them In,” Hadreas flutters on the keys, like water bubbles rising to the surface. On “Longpig” his futuristic, laser-like key arrangements teleport us to his mothership.
And Hadreas is great at using sounds to get us close to him and almost making contact. On “My Body,” he uses this fleshy, raw plucking of the bass to get us up close and personal. It’s chaotic towards the middle, when he plays a sinister scratch-distortion. The tension in the track is representative of his tone – unpredictable, unstable, chaotic, yet poised.
Hadreas includes a track that’s the polar opposite of chaos. “I’m A Mother” is a three-minute trip into (and out of) the womb. It’s echoey, dark, fluid, and organic – essentially the sights of a fetus. The end of the track is hard to distinguish between the sounds of jungle wildlife, and underwater dolphin cove, or an emergence from the womb. Regardless, Hadreas does what he does best on this track, as he does on the entire record: balancing delicate sensibility with heavier undertones.