Marc Almond

Heart on Snow

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Defying expectations and throwing anyone for a loop who guessed what Marc Almond might do after Stranger Things, Heart on Snow is his Russian album. That is to say that some of the songs are traditional Russian folk music, some are inspired by Almond's somewhat existentialist views of Russian life and love, and others merely mention Russian life but come across like traditional Almond songs. Instruments mostly take a backseat to Almond's voice, which is in peak form, but each song has a firm foundation of a combination of upright bass, piano, accordion, violin, percussion, moody keyboards, and guitars. Almond employs Russian musicians throughout the album, as well as a series of fine Russian vocalists. Among the collaborators, the stunning operatic voice of Ludmilla Zukena shines strongest, and Alla Bayanova pairs with Almond on "Oh My Soul" and "Luna," where the duo works dark cabaret magic over minimal beats and a noir piano. Almond alternates between English and Russian at the drop of a hat, but he thankfully sticks mostly to English. His Russian is by no means a disaster, but it appears at times that he's doing a comical interpretation when that's clearly not the desired effect. Though Almond is in full-on theatrical mode, singing passionately about love and honor, he never resorts to stereotypes or clichés, as he guides each song away from the showy, stoic facade he presents posing for the album's cover. This really is essential listening for Almond fans. Its concept-album veneer might suggest inaccessibility, but that's not the case at all in these heartfelt, solid songs that show Almond going strong with great emotional depth and a wonderful range of musicality more than 20 years after his first solo album. Moody, brilliantly textured, and featuring gorgeous vocals from Almond and his Russian collaborators, Heart on Snow is an experience to be treasured.

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