There is an art to being a singer-songwriter. I know that sounds like a dumb and fairly obvious statement, but most take years to grasp such a truth if they ever get it. It isn’t enough to strum an acoustic guitar and wear a Fedora at a jaunty angle, and believe me; I’ve seen more performers than I care to remember who think that is all that matters. No, first you have to have good songs, which Diego Molina demonstrably does, and then you know how to dress them up. Just enough that they develop a personality of their own, but not so much that you lose the sound of what makes them so good in the first place. And that, dear reader, makes When the Whole House Is Asleep such a great album.
And so, Molina’s songs sit in that wonderful place between the spacious realm of the solo player and the weight and drive of the whole band experience. It doesn’t hurt that he has a fantastic voice, full of drift and seduction, hazy and natural harmony. It also does him no harm that he understands the power of space, a place where additional atmospheres are allowed to percolate and make the music more than the sum of its parts. In fact, I would go as far as to say that space is perhaps the predominant (non) instrument in his musical repertoire, and that makes me very happy. Less is more, guys; less is most definitely more!
“My Pulse” shows this use of space perfectly; it isn’t until halfway through the song that the beat and bass join his solo delivery, and “Life of A Starving Artist” (autobiographical?) shows just how far he can move a song dynamically, from the almost non-existent to a lush, cinematic crescendo. And then there is the unexpectedly funky and rock-driven “Me & Abednego”, which perfectly contrasts the open canvas approach of many of the other songs.
It’s a lush album, a balanced album, a largely understated album. An album of musical mystique and lyrical poeticism. It’s a great album.