Favoring the simple over the exaggerated hasn’t exactly been a popular way of making new music in the last few years, but for Andy Michaels, there was no other way of going about the recording of his latest album Incendiary Heart. Even in Incendiary Heart’s most melodic of moments, like the song “Humming Bird,” there’s more attention being paid to the black and white fundamentals of pop than there ever is making a hook as cutting as possible, and while Michaels is laying the harmonies on us with as much generosity as he ever has, overindulgence just wasn’t in the fold for him in his recent trip to the recording studio.
There’s a lot of American folk influences in Incendiary Heart, with tracks like “This Songs for You,” the piano-clad “Sticks and Stones (featuring Carolyn Thomas),” self-exposing “Only Love Knows the Meaning of Goodbye” and “The Flame (featuring Kerry Ironside)” bearing their stylistic origins right out in the open for everyone to hear, but I don’t think this album was meant to pay homage to any one source of Michaels’ inspiration over another. Other songs, like the confident single “Darling It Hurts,” are a lot harder to pin down aesthetically, though never so far to the left of the mainstream that they would be hard-sells on college radio anywhere in the world.
The music video for “Darling It Hurts” is a little stock compared to what I had thought it would look like, but its soundtrack ultimately makes it feel like the original slice of life that it should be. Michaels doesn’t want us to get hung up on visual plot devices and untethered thematic elements in this video; if I had to guess, I’d say that he wants us to appreciate the emotion in the music as it’s conveyed in every shot more than we do the polished gleam present on every frame.
I would have put “Only Change Stays the Same,” “Night and Day” and “I Can Fly” ahead of “Darling It Hurts,” “Emerald Eyes (featuring Tiarna Madison)” and “Fireflies” in this tracklist, but I suppose I can get what Andy Michaels was trying to achieve in setting up the flow of the record in the style that he did. It definitely creates more tension as we inch closer to the finish line with “Planet 8 (featuring Sharon Court),” and while it isn’t a full-blown progressive effort, you can see where he would definitely have the chops to make something of that sort in the future (if he wanted to, that is).
Andy Michaels has come a long way in a very short amount of time when you think about it, and although this latest album was released in 2019, it’s gathering enough steam behind his brand for us to safely assume that his momentum isn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon. He’s got a great way of connecting with his audience, and in Incendiary Heart’s finest of moments, he shows listeners just how much he can evolve within only a few minutes’ time. Melody is this guy’s main prerogative, and that’s confirmed beyond any sort of doubt here.