The singing and songwriting team of Seaholm Mackintosh has released their premier CD. Titled Monarchs, the disk features a dozen solidly written and performed songs and lets us anticipate more inspired work by this new duo.
Both Mackintosh and Seaholm have previously distinguished themselves as performers. Brooke Mackintosh has been singing and writing original material since she was a child, and Sven-Eric Seaholm has been recording and performing since at least the nineties. Their new collaboration creates a great new musical synergy. Seaholm’s tenor and Mackintosh’s versatile soprano blend easily, as though they have been working as a duo for a long time.
Most distinguishing about the disk is its sound. Seaholm is a studio animal and has for years recorded a host of musicians at his Kitsch & Sync Production studio. (He is also the audio maven who writes the “Zen of Recording” column for the Troubadour.) Making electronic copies of the sounds people produce is the reason he gets up in the morning. He would EQ your DNA if he could. His expertise shows on Monarchs. It is one of the finest recorded and engineered CDs I’ve ever heard. For my advanced copy, I listened to Monarchs on my laptop; I’ve known drive-in theatres with better quality speakers than what I have on my Mac. Despite these limitations, when I played Monarchs, it just sounded so damn good. I was reminded of those pristine gems of pop from 40 years ago, such as the Bridge Over Troubled Water album or Steely Dan’s Aja. If you hear Monarchs on anything besides your cell phone, you’re in for a treat.
Besides the bygone era recording quality, Seaholm and Macintosh also rely on techniques and technology from a couple generations ago, like the way they make the drums sound very big yet subdued in “What Does Your Heart Say?” and “All Kingdoms Come.” The title tune, “Monarchs,” contains some Alan Parsonsesque recording studio marginalia. A machine-like sound gives the tune a rhythm, and voices drop in and out of the background. Seaholm and Mackintosh even dig up and use a Mellotron, a quirky kind of organ – out of production for decades – that plays tapes of musical instruments and whose use gave many of the songs of the Moody Blues and the Beatles their strange and curious orchestral backdrop.
Similarly, the songs of Monarchs are in the great pop mold as well, with great harmonies and catchy and appealing choruses. “Bliss” is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac during their seventies heyday. For me, “Lorelie, 1883,” a song about work, life, and death during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, is the most intriguing song of the disk. The backdrop of love and kinship contrasts with the stark expectations and dangers that were brought on with the dawning industrial age. And there is “If I Were a Bird,” a song of such beguiling simplicity that it might be easy to miss the whole point of the tune.