Chicago producer and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Mietus unveils his debut solo album with Transcendental Souvenirs, a collection of nostalgic love songs and heartbreak anthems. It’s a multi-dimensional experience of well crafted and opulent production, sparkling synth sounds, sultry guitar, and rhythms both danceable and forlorn.
Transcendental Souvenirs begins with “Digits”, an almost disco-driven piece layered with sounds of old-school 80s synths but with a modern flare. It transcends both genre and decade. Mietus’ vocals sit upon the instrumentals with grace and understanding – soft yet not lost within them – bringing to mind whisper synth-inspired throwbacks such as Electric Youth and Kavinsky.
“Send Soul” follows with a slower yet assertive groove. Vocals take center stage and shape the piece into one that is gradual and romantic. This is the first real taste we get at the transformative ability of Mietus’ voice, effortlessly transitioning from a gravelly swagger to a croon not often heard paired with a trap beat.
“Edge of Heaven”, a danceable yet introspective song, shapes a story of the exhilaration of a first romance through effortless percussion and gentle surprises of synth. The Mietus Touch sings of “finding yourself” with another person as the instrumentals follow with a seemingly impossible blend of mystery and certainty. Here again we hear the vocals shape shift from chorus to verse.
“Last Lost Look” uses a beguiling relationship between vocals, lyrics, and instrumentals that causes the listener to question whether being in love with someone means you’ve got them “all figured out”. Lyrics question the past as instrumentals seem to take a dystopian turn, insinuating the curiosity of traveling to the past to get to know the person you see in front of you and who they were before. Intensity of both vocals and instrumentals escalates with time in the piece, bringing the listener to a deep state of mind between interplay of biting vocals both vulnerable and strong. Imagine if Father John Misty had synths.
“You Got Me” tells the tale of heartbreak and confusion with lyrics expressing remorse and apology for hurting someone from the past and wondering why that person imparted a hurt as well. There is a 1970s Laurel Canyon vibe that’s unmistakable in its influence and is a surprising but welcome departure from the largely danceable and synth-driven tracks up to this point. A slow climax to overdubs of “I’m sorry I hurt you, wish you didn’t hurt me” bring an aura of both regret and understanding.
“Maybe I’m a Coyote” seems to be a metaphorical way to understand a relationship with another person, and what it means to be both in and out of love. At times almost straight forward Mayer-esque blues rock, the chorus takes a turn into multilayered harmonies and a Tame Impala-like crescendo.
Fans of Breakfast at Tiffany’s will recognize “Moon River” which concludes the collection and brings more 80s inspired sparkling synth moments. Lyrics take a more indirect turn, forcing the listener to ponder their meaning, introducing an exciting opportunity of interpretation among thrilling instrumentals and mood changes almost moment to moment.
Transcendental Souvenirs is a collection of sonic souvenirs, feelings, and memories. The story told here is a dazzling success of show and tell. This seven-piece collection is appropriately titled, as it truly transcends the listener into a warm and ecstatic state – piece by piece, stories told, memories remembered and forgotten.