Ed Roman - 'Red Omen'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

Since arriving upon the music scene in the early 1980s, Ed Roman has become a staple of the independent music community through his versatile performances and remarkably eclectic musical palette. He’s an award-winning singer songwriter from Canada with a lengthy resume of radio airtime, awards, features, and more. Thus, his new album, ‘Red Omen,’ should be held to a particularly high standard. How does this new thirteen track collection fare? Let’s dig in and find out!

Roman’s career has been concreted by his ability to diversify himself across a massive array of genres. From folk to rock to country to jazz to punk, he’s seen and done it all. Splendidly, this does rub off on his latest solo endeavor. ‘Red Omen’ is a fascinating entry of songs that, much like their creator, don’t seem to subscribe to any real genre classification. Normally, this would indicate an album in disarray, but with Roman, everything subsides into perfect harmony.

‘Red Omen’ opens up with its titular track - a tune that begins with a cackling laugh as the percussion section grows. The track immediately makes a bold statement: Roman’s songwriting style is eccentric and quirky. His performance style matches the lyrics he pens as well, and as a result, everything is very free-flowing. ‘Red Omen,’ the track, is a wonderful culmination of world and rock influence with bizarre lyrical musings. It’s the perfect opener for an album like this.

‘Tough Cookie’ expands Roman’s personality and sound even further with another track that feels entirely effortless, if you will. The performances on ‘Red Omen’ exude levity and comfort. As an indie critic, I’m constantly listening to new outfits and artists that are struggling to find their artistic identities. That, of course, is a process for everyone. On his new album, Ed Roman comes across as a guy who’s figured that out.

‘I Wish The Wolfman Was Back’ is likely the most delightful track on the entirety of this album. There’s nothing to not love about it. It has the oddball lyricism of ‘Monster Mash’ mixed with an intense rock aura that’s completely infectious. It’s well produced, too, as are each of the tracks on this effort. The eerie keys performance is particularly excellent, and ‘I Wish The Wolfman Was Back’ is a track that’ll last for a very long time in your head.

‘I Am Love’ is one of the focus points of the album - in press materials it’s even lauded as one of the important highlights of ‘Red Omen.’ It’s a funky song, one that has a bit of a U2-esque sound. There’s a very free-spirited nature to the tune; Roman sits atop his mountain and proclaims love and kindness. Each person must find their own truth, he explains in a sermon-like section of the album. The song is actually served very well by an extended cut, too, which is technically the final song on ‘Red Omen.’

‘The Way She Goes’ is a stunning acoustic song that’s most welcome after a bunch of electric-centric tracks. The song exhibits Roman’s range especially well, and ‘The Way She Goes’ could be right at home on a contemporary folk or singer songwriter record. The song also borders some country-esque musings, something that’s more fully fleshed out on the next song, ‘Think I’m Just A Fool.’ The steel guitar and ample reverb of ‘Think I’m Just A Fool’ makes for a compelling entry in the collection.

‘Time Itself’ is an interesting track, one that perhaps lands in some experimental territory. The layering of vocal tracks and perplexing melodies and tempos makes for a fascinating listen. It doesn’t feel as razor-sharp in its execution as its predecessors, but it is worthy of its inclusion. ‘Clone the Sheep,’ however, is very concise. Clocking in at an angry, punk-driven two and half minutes, ‘Clone the Sheep’ is the album’s defining statement of versatility and genrelessness.

Of course, after one randomly introduces a bombastic punk song in the middle of their album, the next logical step is to grab the steering wheel of the car and make another abrupt left turn. Roman, characteristically, does this, and follows ‘Clone the Sheep’ with ‘ETA,’ a melodic, sing-along song that incorporates Spanish nylon guitar. Right after that, the eerie ‘Nothing More To Say’ takes a single bass and some sparse percussion and accents one of Roman’s most animated vocal performances.

The folk tune, ‘Lay One Down,’ is a lovely inclusion toward the very end of ‘Red Omen.’ It’s very well written, and Roman’s composition houses a whole slew of musical elements that make the track perfect for recurring listens. ‘I Wanna Be Free,’ the finale, was seemingly written after Roman spent a whole day listening to only the Talking Heads. Seriously, this is a song right off the cutting room floor of ‘More Songs About Buildings & Food.’

Ed Roman should have included the subtitle “... Because, Why Not?” underneath ‘Red Omen’ on his album art. This album refuses to sit still, it dances between a dozen different genres, and it genuinely feels as if Roman walked into the studio each day and haphazardly shrugged his shoulders before recording a song entirely different than the previous day’s. Because, why not?

As a result of that, I absolutely adore this album. It’s so splendidly good, and it’s so very much worth your time. Surprisingly, every piece of this puzzle fits together and it’s one of the best indie efforts of the year as a result. Roman is so tactful in each of his creations, they tie together with an astounding grace. It’s a special album worth taking note of.