Michael J. Sheehy

Ill Gotten Gains

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Michael J. Sheehy is a clever fellow. The first song on the morose crooner's sophomore solo release also doubles as the title of his debut full-length. The sparse and haunting segue tune, "Sweet Blue Gene," is the perfect bridge between the companion pieces. Basically, Ill Gotten Gains is the expected sequel -- another solid batch of lyric-oriented vignettes concerning sin, love, detachment, and pain. As far as instrumentation, there are more of the same intricate string arrangements, shimmering keys, and slick programming tricks. One interesting expansion, however, is that Ill Gotten Gains offers a bit more in the soul department as evidenced by the earthy female backing vocals that sporadically drift through and the occasional sax break provided by Spiritualized's horn man, Ray Dickaty. Regardless of these minor innovations and overall pristine presentation of sound, Ill Gotten Gains ultimately succeeds courtesy of Sheehy's evocative vocal delivery and the themes and associated imagery that he is able to conjure. Whereas many songwriter types over-personalize and harp on the trivial, Sheehy, conversely, is able to tap into the cloaked psyche of a truly disturbed lover and carry the collective misery of tortured souls squarely on his frail shoulders. In his sordid world, a mother-to-be consumes the illicit substances she is supposed to be selling ("Wha'cha Gonna Do?"), a father confesses to son about the drug-fueled conception process that resulted in his birth ("Michael JNR"), and physical abuse in a relationship is normalcy ("Some People Love to Get Hurt"). Whether the subject matter is fact or fiction is anyone's guess. It is all part of the mystery that makes the man and his music all the more intriguing.

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