Words -Kurt McVey

In the not too distant past, Boston based musician Mike Fiore scribbled the phrase “Elite Lines” on the corner of an old notebook, unaware that one day it would eventually become the title of his third and most sonically-as well emotionally-consistent album to date. Coming on the heels of 2008’s The Troubles and 2011’s Some Weather, Elite Lines (released March 25th) is an extremely focused 8-track journey through Fiore’s immediate mental landscape. Though his lyrics and his voice are perhaps more mature than ever, they continue to straddle the line between self-assurance and a seemingly disconcerting lust for deeper introspection. Luckily, Fiore is more than game for to you coming along for the ride. At a sparse 29 minutes, Elite Lines might be too brief to be considered an epic road trip mainstay, but it’s definitely ass kicking enough to at least get you on your feet and out the door.

 

“Percy” The first track on the album comes off like something Enio Morricone would have put together if you gave him a guitar, a mariachi band, and Hunter S. Thompson’s infamous briefcase in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. For young urbanites who have relinquished their automobile privileges for the sake of public transportation, “Percy” is built around a simple but purposeful two-cord guitar lick, indigenous percussion, generous rattles and maracas, and a raw Americana guitar lead that opens up at the two minute mark. Combined, these elements could persuade the slowest of slow-walkers to walk a bit harder. As a direct nod to one of Fiore’s idols, Neil Percival Young, the album’s mood setter builds upon the archetype of a steadfast travel weary troubadour, desperate to have there voice both heard and simultaneously unheard as they fade into the quicksilver on the horizon.

 

“It’s not necessarily the sound of a song that shapes a record, but the sense of spirituality, and how consistently it drives and reinforces the same root emotion,” explains Fiore. In a rather interesting aesthetic choice, “Elite Lines” the second track off the album, is a layered and somewhat melancholy guitar instrumental that brings to mind “Wake the Dead” a relatively secret track loosely affiliated with A Perfect Circle’s first album Mer de Noms. Songs of this nature (a midsummer night’s dream) usually show up at the end of an album experience, but here, Fiore seems to be suggesting that this journey will have some unexpected psychological twists and turns.

 

In “The Rule” we return to the familiar elements in “Percy” but now with a piercing keyboard lead while Fiore’s playful and often soaring vocals spill out with the desperation of a free wheelin’ Dean Moriarty. “The Rule’ is about the complexities of sharing certain parts of yourself with someone,” says Fiore. “This idea of “The Rule” is sarcastic of course, as if there were just one.”

 

“Your Old One” opens with an unabashed Skynyrd inspired guitar riff but evolves into something closer to a mid career Flaming Lips track, replete with trippy swells basking in a funkified reverb haze. Fiore frequently dips into Jim James of My Morning Jacket territory and “Your Old One” is no exception. Luckily his lyrics come off here as a genuine statement of loyalty and appreciation for a lasting and surprisingly durable personal relationship.

 

“Bad Star” is in many ways the emotional centerpiece of the album. An Indie homage drowned in remorse, a dash of regret, and subtle reverb, it evokes comparisons to Vampire Weekend, Paul Simon, and early Shins. At the 3-minute mark, the track pretends to terminate in a swath of cold silence before swelling once more into a strange but gorgeously warm guitar outro.

 

“Heartspeed” picks up the pace and the bass and magnifies the liquefied psychedelic guitar washes as Fiore’s layered duel vocals happily spar with one another until we come to “Daytime Nowhere” the album’s penultimate track. This delightfully unapologetic ballad-which in title alone evokes another stellar album released this year, Daydream Forever by The Chain Gang of 1974, Elite Line’s West Coast cousin-is sprawling and ambitious in both its sound and lyrical message. Fiore cleverly masks the meaning behind his chill inducing howling laments for the fading moonlight. This is Fiore at his most emotive and grandiose, the perfect lead into the album’s bass and drum heavy closer. “Rake the Dust” is a brief and somewhat fleeting call to arms, or to love, but probably both. It is a fitting conclusion to Elite Lines, a southern beat poet’s dusty dream of a modern yet timeless America, told from the perspective of a tough but sensitive Bostonian, as the sun sets in the rearview as it is wont to do.

Elite Lines Cover (7)-2 copy

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