St. Lenox

Ten Hymns from My American Gothic

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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger

St. Lenox is the musical vehicle of Andrew Choi, a New York-based Korean-American from the Midwest whose gutsy indie pop chronicles the modern American experience in a dazzling litany of soulful free verse. Written as a 70th birthday gift to his immigrant father, Choi recorded Ten Hymns from My American Gothic in the evening hours while working by day as a Manhattan attorney. A Juilliard-trained concert violinist, Choi shelved his classical ambitions during college only to discover a passion for writing and singing pop music in Ohio karaoke bars. By the time he'd been picked up by Columbus indie Anyway Records, he'd developed a bold mish-mash of musical styles that supported his descriptive, stream-of-consciousness lyrical approach. 2014's Ten Songs About Memory and Hope introduced audiences to St. Lenox, an unlikely indie powerhouse who melds glossy electronic textures with richly chorded piano pop delivered in an intensely soul-bearing tenor that falls somewhere between Cee Lo Green and John Darnielle. With Ten Hymns, Choi expands on his broad vision exploring themes of immigration, American culture, and history, painting vividly from his own personal and family experiences. At times beautiful, difficult, and brash, this is true 21st century songwriting with a global heart, Midwestern soul, and urban gumption. Whether reconciling with his mother's views on the arresting "People from Other Cultures" or celebrating the influence of an American law icon on "Thurgood Marshall," Choi comes across as original and unflinching both in content and aesthetic. Grandiose opener "Fuel America" pairs distinctly modern digital programming with the warm heartland piano phrasings of Warren Zevon in an exultant pop-cultured filled ode to the American dream. On another track, he deftly muses about his heritage, singing "Have you ever been to the place I'm from, I'm a native son of Korea. And if you ever miss a place again, I suggest you miss my home." Aside from the cultural relevance of his lyrics, Choi's songwriting is catchy, vibrant, and brimming with melody and moxie on this excellent follow-up.

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