Michael Dasso - 'Hurricane'

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.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we delve into a record that’ll be coming your way on January 15. ‘Hurricane’ is the latest studio endeavor from the Portland-based singer songwriter, Michael Dasso. He describes himself as an ‘eclectic indie, alternative and pop musician,’ one that wears nearly every hat in the songwriting and production process. This latest effort is one that Dasso wants to make relatable to listeners struggling with finding their way out of depression. The album acts as open pages into Dasso’s life, and thus, attempts to be extremely personal. How does the effort fare? Let’s find out.

In Dasso’s press content, he doesn’t particularly delve into his own experiences with depression, which I imagine, would have to exist in order for him to write an album like this and have a level of authenticity. He does touch on the fact that many of the tunes were written about failed relationships, something many of us can definitely relate to. From the opening notes of the title track, Dasso’s style is made abundantly apparent: he’s a soft crooning, introspective pop artist armed with a soulful voice and a piano with an affinity for some harmonies. Sometimes, this can be a bit kitschy; there are so many artists in the indie scene like this. Dasso’s honesty bleeds through the speakers, though, and as a result, the music feels original and welcoming.

‘Sadistic Liar’ is a particularly compelling piece since Dasso’s piano dances hauntingly with a sparse acoustic guitar. On this track, I did run into some concerns with the production. The timbre of the acoustic guitar is quite tinny, the piano overpowering, and the low end of the production thick. That may very well be a result of Dasso’s heavy involvement in the production in a DIY capacity, and I don’t count it much against him.

Note - I’ve learned to post a disclaimer when I critique production quality. All Independent Spotlight content is reviewed in the studio on industry-grade monitors. I’m not sitting in a Starbucks with Apple earbuds in sipping coffee!

‘Hollow Scene’ is such a fascinating track, I think, perhaps making it one of the strongest on the effort. This brief, but absolutely stunning track utilizes some masterful electronic-tinges on Dasso’s vocals. It’s so different, so poignant, and so passionate, that it’s one of the most wonderful experiences of ‘Hurricane.’ I absolutely love his use of autotune as an instrument, not a crutch. I’m a huge advocate of that when done properly, and Dasso aces it here.

‘Half Life’ brings back the sparse classical-style guitar to much greater success in the mix. I like this track as a soft-spoken ballad through Dasso’s personal musings, something also personified in the gorgeous ‘Walked Away.’ My personal favorite musical excursion of the middle section of this record is, however, most definitely ‘Home.’ Man, what a track. That scorching electric guitar adds a beautiful dynamic right as the sound was beginning to blur a bit.

As we reach the end of the record, there are a few pieces definitely worth touching on. The production of ‘Running’ is incredibly satisfying, ‘Tattered Intentions’ is an atmospheric jaunt through stellar songwriting. In fact, I’ll argue it is the strongest effort of the collection. I so love the sparse instrumentation and melodies. Finally, the album ends with ‘Bare,’ a fully acoustic number that embraces a wonderful acoustic-folk style. The song seems to strip down Dasso’s persona to an extreme, something that makes it have a sense of finality, as if he’s ending on the most personal note he can. I love hearing him backed by only an acoustic guitar and a brief female backup vocalist. The simplicity is great and the contrast between ‘Bare’ and his piano-driven musings is absolutely delightful.

‘Hurricane’ is going to be a terrific record very much worth your time when it drops in January. Get ready to stream it, or better yet, snag a signed copy on Dasso’s website. At times, the album meanders into the mundane, mostly because the instrumentation blurs between several tracks. For the most part, however, it is a consistently compelling effort through an introspective songwriter’s relatable and loveable ideas and themes. It’s a very promising endeavor indicative of a potentially terrific artist.