“This is a glimpse into my life,” Michael Golden tells me as a way of explaining his debut album, Some Kind of Holiday. Twelve very personal songs that are stark and remorseful, sometimes loving and, in carefully selected places, surprisingly confident, yet always laid bare, sliced back to the bone.
“It’s a love of songwriting…” A songwriting raw and vulnerable, and always at it’s most biographical and revealing. It’s twenty years, he admits, of listening to Leonard Cohen and of being immersed within the eclectic, folky sounds of artists like Father John Misty and Cat Stevens, artists from songwriting’s golden decade who now resonate through 12 incredibly profound tracks.
Some Kind of Holiday is an album powerful due to its purest simplicity. The voice that courses through it is etched in pain, confused and beseeching, that leads and pours over and through each song in turn.
Michael began his songwriting career at the age of 16, as a way of disappearing into a creative world, and, as he openly admits, to give his life some sense of meaning: a search that has continued into adulthood. Alongside him, through the journey, it has enabled him to grasp and explain and come to terms with the life changes that are now revealed through poetic lyrics that refuse to be hidden behind heavily produced drums or drowned out by thrashing electric guitars. There is nothing here that is not absolutely necessary! Instead, the words are carried upon flowing keys or soothed by the live squeaking strings of remorseful guitars, and by cellos that float out in wisps towards the heart.
Purposely, the title track opens the album with tautly strummed and pulled strings and a disconnected, ghost-like voice hovering and whispering words that are sad and that reminisce, that then, innocently, deliver such a heartfelt and plea-filled question: “You feel the cycle begin again. So much is lost; when’s our time to win?”
“It’s a gut-wrenching line,” Michael now admits, and delivered by a saccharine, innocent sounding voice that makes it that much more potent, that much more desperate. Everything laid naked, musically and lyrically, so that the song relies on this haunting voice of the narrator for its rhythm and soul and meaning.
Mr Ecstasy: Michael’s voice is effectively lower now, having grown, even if it is just superficially. Whilst the chords from flowing softly stroked keys take over the accompanying support role with ever-so-elegant cellos adding colour to every line of this story slowly being revealed; hopeful, at least for the moment, and then mournful. Golden sounds almost free and confident, more so than at any other time, although there is still that inherent feeling of a vulnerability soon to be rediscovered when the effects wear off once and for all. But, for the moment at least, he is content and almost thankful for this chance at a temporary escape.
“It’s about the thin line between merriment and addiction… of the false euphoria of drug use,” Michael confesses, giving us this front row view of a battle personally fought.
The closer you delve and the harder you listen, the further you are drawn in and the more you realise that this is an album of heart-felt tales that come directly from experiences very personal. From a singer and a songwriter emboldened by those he grew up listening to, the 1970’s writers he so closely studied. And this is what followed. Twelve tales that each come directly from the heart, told with a fresh voice rich in scarred tones, from an artist that has emerged on the other side, older and wiser. With a melodic voice that continues to grow to spite it all, that is confident, supported by the delicate strings of Shannon Lee Hayden’s cello and the keys of Bill Mallers’ piano. And lifted up by the gorgeously delicate and harmonious encouragement provided by Heidi Gluck, who also lends her talent on organ, Bass, Electric and Slide guitars.
“It’s not all doom and gloom,” Michael quickly points out. “It’s not all about demands to jilted lovers, or of the warnings of drug abuse,” he insists. On the track, Keep On Breathin’, Golden suggests that when his love is, “contemplatin’ checkin’ out of this earthly hotel,” to remember to, “reflect upon all those who’ve known and loved you well.” Whilst, Like A Canyon, is a song that finds Golden, in his most traditional Nashville, Don Williams mood, spreading his wings, proudly reminding an unnamed partner that, “when you’re with me, the stars talk to me”.
Long Dance Home is, for me, the album’s highlight, perfectly illustrating the powerfulness to be found in the simplistic, whilst Silver Gypsy takes shape and form through powerful and careful imagery that tells such a loving story, the strings, as always, haunting but delicate and simply truthful. The album may hark back to those influences from the seventies but it has graduated, it is fresh and up-to-date, relevant and current. And yet, at the same time, it is strangely comforting in that bygone familiarity. Deceptively and strangely optimistic, carefully orchestrated in places.
Some Kind of Holiday was self-produced with the help of producer and engineer, Paul Mahern, who helps to give each song an individual essence.
“We’re always reminded of Brian Eno’s concept of ‘scenius’ – that the myth of sole authorship and genius is just that: a myth,” Michael explains. “It takes a ‘scene’ to realise something well, and I’m utterly blessed in that respect,” Golden says unashamedly of his producer and his band.
“Paul’s the frontman of the seminal hardcore punk band the Zero Boys. And also produced and engineered multiple John Mellencamp albums,” he adds quickly, proudly.
After listening to the album it is impossible not to be struck by the “profound” simplicity. It is heartfelt and daringly candid and honest; indeed something new, but in recognisable clothing.
Michael Golden hopes that Some Kind of Holiday will help to inspire, “a meaningful life for others, through all trials and tribulations of life. It’s not just an autobiographical piece. It’s about uncovering your own idea of truth and identification. About creating a safe and peaceful environment… a route of escapism through emotional clarity.”
The other members of Michael’s band are, Jason Wilber, of John Prine fame, and David England on electric guitar.
Some Kind of Holiday is released on 20th November