A-Set – Songs From the Red Room

Songs From the Red Room

A-Set is pretty much Albert Menduno (no, not Menudo). On this album, Menduno plays the guitar, the bass, the drums, the ogran, piano, percussion, and the all-encompassing “etc.” Other musicians are listed as providing drums and bass, but I imagine Menduno is A-Set. Heck, do you think the A is for Albert?

I can’t get over Menduno’s vocals. They are right out late 70s classic rock. I haven’t listened to Jethro Tull in probably eight or nine years, but as soon as I heard Menduno start singing, I thought of Jethro Tull. The vocals are eerily similar, and I had to look at Menduno’s picture to make sure he’s not older and reliving his old Tull days. At times they sound like Steeley Dan. It’s an odd sort of image, to put those vocalists with modern indie pop rock, but there it is. Now you, too, will be doomed to hear those similarities when listening to this album.

“A Day and the Weight” has a great guitar riff, almost sounding like a stripped-down punk-rock riff, and some great drum beats that make this song light and airy and bouncy. “Discount Highway” is slower and prettier, with the guitar and vocals being the primary instruments. “On the discount highway, I’ll be back soon,” Menduno sings again and again. “Pick-A-Lie” sounds so much like a Ben Folds Five song, and not just because of the electric piano thrown in. The vocals even sound like Ben Folds. Without the guitar backing riffs, I would have thought this was a trademark Ben Folds Five bouncy pop song. Now that I’ve made those Jetrho Tull comparisons, “Among Strangers,” with its guitar riff and drum beats, reminds me of a Tull song, almost identical. Interesting. I’d kill to know if Tull was a big influence for Menduno. “Swallow” has a more folk-ish feel to it, brought about by the plucking of the acoustic guitar and backing “doo doo doo.” “Blizzard of ’99” has a Built to Spill feel to it. “One of Many” is probably my favorite track, starting off only with a soft acoustic guitar and adding soft drums and organ to the mix in a slow yet atmospheric song. The lyrics shine here, as well.

All in all, A-Set is a really interesting and unique listen. Don’t get me wrong by the classic rock references. Barring one or two throwback songs, this is a modern indie pop album. The instrumentation is clear and perfect, with strong mixing. The songs are catchy with good lyrics and a general good feeling about them. But it’s the combination of the piano, the various guitar riffs, and Menduno’s vocals that make this unique. Interesting stuff.