Ken Michaels – The Last of Its Kind

Ken Michaels
The Last of Its Kind

When I first saw the album art for The Last of Its Kind, I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between the painting style and that of the art in the movie, Great Expectations. With the way the pigments were applied, the art felt like a past dream world of a child. This dreamy mood carries on through to Ken Michaels’ music, which is a unique blend of folksy electronica with a retro twist that is an amazingly pleasant combination.

The instant the acoustic guitar starts up the first track “Little Fish” you will know how you feel about the entire album. You will either find it too mellow for your taste or see yourself falling for the acoustic layers blended with spacey, electronic washes and Michaels’ soft, muffled vocals. This track is one of the best on the album with smart yet spare lyrics and a careful blend of retro and modern instrumentation for a downright catchy little number. It also flows nicely into “So So” which sheds the electro-folk for a more traditional folk pop sound for an infectious tune.

“Be Whatever” blends the unique combination of modern and retro in not only the music but also the vocals. Here we see a 60’s style folk-rock influence in the dense vocal harmonies over jangly guitars along with the addition of more modern style keyboards. This influence is seen throughout the album at various points like in the vocal harmonies for “Highlight” and also throughout “Up and Down the Aisle”, a bouncy track with piano additions that stands out on the album.

Because the album is filled with many nicely performed and arranged tracks with near flawless instrumentation and folk-inspired vocals, it seems difficult to complain. However, I do feel I must point out one thing. In “Come Rain or Shine”, Michaels’ successfully crosses the line on how much electronic additions is too much. The song starts out with keyboards, tambourine and horribly fuzzed out electric guitar and then the vocals enter as if they were just coming straight out of a talking computer. It was so awful that I could barely listen to the entire song except that I kept hoping that it would get better. However, I can allow one mistake when there are other tracks like “Summer Love”, a painfully beautiful piano-led ballad with unforgettably lush harmonies that close the album on the highest possible note.

The more I listened to The Last of Its Kind the more I enjoyed not just a few tracks but the album as a whole. By blending the layered acoustics and dense vocal harmonies of the 60’s with timeless catchy rhythms and modern style electronics, he has stumbled upon a winning combination. Ken Michaels knows exactly what he is doing by blending the eras and thus created an album that may not be smoking the pop charts but has a quiet charm that is extremely difficult to resist.