Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love

St. Lenox

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Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love Review

by Timothy Monger

In the third installment of what has turned out to be a loosely themed trilogy of profoundly engaging biographical narratives, New York's St. Lenox explores the sometimes-parallel ambitions of building a career and finding love. First originating out of Ohio, St. Lenox is the work of Andrew Choi, an Iowa-raised second-generation Korean-American and Manhattan attorney whose creative pursuits have resulted in some of the most unique and unconventionally thrilling pop music in the late 2010s. First with 2014's Ten Songs About Memory and Hope, and then with 2016's fantastic Ten Hymns from My American Gothic, Choi has channeled his life's journey, family history, and cultural perspective into 20 gutsy songs that fuse together warm piano pop, bedroom electronic, jazz, classical, folk, and R&B into a sparkling mish-mash that serves to underpin his absolutely massive voice. Listening to Choi's wild and soulful delivery can be jarring, exhilarating, amusing, and, depending on one's tastes, a little over-the-top, but while his rapid-fire sing-shouting isn't for everyone, he has certainly carved out his own distinctive niche and owns it completely. Adding another ten songs to the St. Lenox canon with Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love, he turns his gaze to the dating scene of Columbus, Ohio, singing in Brooklyn karaoke bars, romantic rejection, professional rejection, and a lifetime of paying dues in both arenas. A number of standouts immediately assert themselves beginning with "First Date," which infuses a poignant heartland piano motif with Choi's quirky pop sense as he replays myriad first dates, expectations, and disappointments. "Vincent Van Gogh," the album's dark-hued centerpiece, rages against past dismissals of his art while the rhythmically eccentric "Gold Star" wryly celebrates the dogged work ethic of the blue-collar artist, gutting it out year after year with little to show for it. "The Hungry Years" offers probably the most immediate rush, as Choi barks out a litany of remembrances from his lean childhood years in Iowa over a punchy bed of fist-pumping synth pop. Through it all, he manages to remain relatable and grounded, spinning with great fervor tales that while unique to his path could also belong to thousands of other Americans trying to navigate their way across the confusing social landscapes of their own cities and communities. Making for a unique cocktail, Choi's extravagant presentation and lingering Midwestern humility somehow cancel each other out and into the creative enigma that is St. Lenox. With this third volume, he proves he has just as much charm and appeal as he did on his two previous outings.

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