For my friends and family, no, not me. The musician. This is a partial review of his first album, “Life in Cartoon Motion.”
Okay, for the rest of you who are sitting here wondering ‘what’s the joke?’ my full name is Mika Ariela Epstein. Up until a month ago, no one could pronounce my name correctly. It’s ME-kah. Not Mick-ah, or Mike-ah, or anything other than ME-kah. ME. ME. Look at my initials! ME. That’s your reminder. Please get it right. Also? Do not call me Mike, Micky, Micks, or anything other than Mika. Yes, my family can call me my nicknames, but I really like my name. It’s cool. I don’t like being called anything but Mika.
On the cruise we took last week, everyone said my name right. The waiter, the assistant waiter, the attendant, the check-in/out people. It was positively creepy. I mean, I’ve spent the better part of 30 years correcting people on my name and here was 2000 people who all got it right! You can imagine why I was concerned.
It wasn’t until the last night of the cruise that I caught on why.
See, I’d known there was a singer named Mika. I have his album, though at that time I’d not listened to it. I just copied it from a friend for self-preservation and a sense of pique. But on the cruise there was this song they played on the ship radio, “Love today” that I really got behind. The whole cruise radio was called ‘Mika’s iPod’ since every time they played a song, I’d turn and say ‘This is on my iPod!’ It was seriously amusing that they had the exact same taste in music as I did (though they were missing my Radio Disney playlist). Still, this song “Love today” I didn’t know.
The last night of the cruise, at the farewell show, the song picked up as we were at sitting and waiting for the show to start. Out of nowhere, everyone started clapping to the beat and singing along. It was spontaneous alterna-cruise! Without the dancing (I’d done dancing earlier, but it was just me demonstrating how, yes, I will break into dance moves when listening to my iPod on the street). The cruise director (a total ‘That Guy’) came out as it was over and asked if we liked the song. We did. He said it was sung by ‘Ika’ and was corrected that it was Mika.
Okay, fine, I thought, I’ll listen to the fucking CD.
I didn’t do that until yesterday, and now it’s on endless repeat on my iPod for the near future.
First impression I had was ‘This is like Magical Mystery Tour!’ And then I had to repeat the thought out loud, because it was so outlandish and yet accurate. Mika’s album, “Life in Cartoon Motion”, has the same freaky-pop vibe as a middle-era Beatles album. It’s got that sound that sells on the radio, but with a dash of style that makes you wonder if the musicians had a puff too many off the hookah before writing the song.
“Love Today” is a straight pop song, catchy beat and all, while “Lollipop” is a deceptive cautionary tale of falling in love that evokes feelings of “When I’m 64” with the cuteness, but a bit of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” ‘Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face’ twist. “Billy Brown” reminds me of “Lady Madonna”, with it’s historical retelling of Billy Brown, and while it doesn’t match the musicianship and harmonies, it’s entertaining in the same way. “Grace Kelly” is a great way to start the album, and while I first listened to it in random order, I’m happy to note that it holds up either way.
I adore the latest Green Day album (American Idiot), but you have to listen to it in order, if you want to listen to the whole album. It’s a story-album, a rock-opera. There are two songs on the album that, out of context, hold up well, maybe three, but “American Idiot” is best when you’ve got an hour and 15 minutes to listen to the whole thing.
“Life in Cartoon Motion” is just under 50 minutes long, counting the two bonus tracks, and I found myself wishing it was just a little longer, to fill my entire commute. I listened to it straight through this morning and not a single song did I not like. There was no ‘Oh god, he put this song in to pad the album.’ The songs are a bit short, but in this case it works well and prevents the SNL pitfall of ‘This joke stopped being funny ten minutes ago.’
If I have a complaint, it’s that the songs are a little too similar. They have similar feels and tones, which is fine, but also similar chordal structures and keys. Mika needs to branch out a little, so that the moments when you hear violins rising in the background become a little less rare. Separate the catchy pop songs with a ballad or a funk-rock song. The album may actually be better on random play because of the chances for that. But album layout comes with age, and if Mika’s sophomore album is as good, he’ll become a reguilar on my pull-list.
So Mika, from another Mika, keep going. God knows your music is better than my folksy faux-Indigo Girls teen emo crap!