Jason Vitelli recently dropped his third album, entitled Head Above Tide. The album presents a collection of songs revolving around the human condition, which changes from moment to moment and is unpredictable.
“These songs coalesced around the idea of facing adversity and overcoming obstacles,” explains Vitelli. “Over the years I’ve resolved my angst and became more sympathetic.”
Stylistically, Vitelli’s sound blends art rock, chamber pop, and progressive rock into a unique concoction of cerebral pop music. The musicians on the album include Vitelli on vocals, keyboards, rhythm and lead guitars, alto sax, bass and sampler; Michael O’Brien on bass; Yorgos Maniatis on drums, shaker, and pandeiro; Max Castro on congas; Lisa Trenary and Cherette White on backup vocals; Dave Ramsay and Richard Padron on lead guitar.
Head Above Tide encompasses 16 tracks. “Hit and Run” opens with piano and Vitelli’s voice riding a baroque-like melody vaguely reminiscent of Jethro Tull. “Fault Lines” delivers a measured highbrow jazz-flavored melody with a definite prog rock feel along the lines of Steely Dan. The vocal harmonies are shiny, but the song lacks oomph. “The Persecuted” delivers a funky jazz melody with discordant vocals. The rhythm starts and stops with shuddering pulses, changing cadence almost erratically.
“Descension” provides a smooth, jazz sensibility that I really enjoyed. It would be a great tune if longer. “Labyrinthine” projects Latin jazz colors and a tremulous rhythm, along with shimmering strings adding glossy Spanish tones. “Living Proof” meanders, failing to attain harmonic cohesion.
“D-Day” rides a folksy quiescent melody rife with vocal harmonies full of tonal dissension. “Welcome to My Life, Healing” travels on a soft prog rock melody imbued with jazz and reggae flavors. Unfortunately, the melody contains multiple tempo changes that give it an unreliable, unpredictable quality that grates.
“Ascension” is a short, jarring experimental piano piece. “Trees” is interesting, delivering a grunge-colored prog rock melody driven by muddy guitars. “Pinwheel” presents a jazzy rock melody with a bluesy jazz ambiance that’s effective. “Autumn Hymn” is flat and humdrum, devoid of harmonic coloration, and “Propagate” offers a tasty rhythm, but the vocals are mind-numbing.
“Vacant” and “Three Marionettes” are uninspiring. The last track, “A Mutiny” emanates quasi-experimental jazz hues and tiresome vocal harmonies.
Head Above Tide lacks structure. Lank themes, disproportionate rhythms, and unusual harmonic mannerisms come across as perplexing conglomerations of theorizing discords. The music is pensive and melancholy, dry and lifeless, probably because it’s too complex, too intricate, and too intellectual.