Mike Bones

The Sky Behind the Sea

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Accessibility -- or a lack thereof -- does not determine whether or not an artist has artistic merit. There are very accessible artists who do great things and very accessible artists whose music is totally forgettable. There are not-so-accessible artists who have recorded brilliant albums (Ornette Coleman, for example) and not-so-accessible artists whose recordings are quite disposable. All that said, the talented but accessible artists are more likely be accepted than the talented but not-so-accessible artists because quite frankly, many listeners don't have the patience to deal with albums that are difficult to absorb -- albums that simply have to be accepted on their own terms. The Sky Behind the Sea is that type of album; this is a generally promising, if a bit uneven, debut from the New York City-based singer/songwriter Mike Strallow, aka Mike Bones, but only the more patient listeners will reap the rewards. Bones' alternative pop/rock does not go out of its way to be accessible either musically or lyrically; his lyrics are cryptic, and his moody, dark songs are cerebral and abstract. Anyone who demands instant gratification from music will not get it from The Sky Behind the Sea. But the more one listens to this 2007 release, the more one realizes how much Bones has going for him. This is the type of challenging CD that is hard to absorb on the first listen but reveals more and more of its rewards with subsequent listens. Bones can, at times, be a little too self-indulgent for his own good, but his self-indulgence is only a minor problem on The Sky Behind the Sea -- not a major one. Although not perfect, Bones' intriguing debut is well worth exploring if one is patient enough to go along for the ride.

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