In 2017 we were on tour with an American band called XIXA. They are something like a desert-rock supergroup consisting of various musicians from around Arizona. After the tour we stayed in touch and a year or so later their guitarist and singer Brian Lopez put out this solo record, Prelude.
We were both completely blown away by it. We love bands and artists that sound like the place they are coming from, and Brian does exactly that. Half of the songs literally sound like they are straight out of the TV show Westworld – I’m especially thinking of the track ‘Los Angeles’ here with its slightly detuned steel-hammer saloon piano. There is so much of that desert flair in this record, something between north and south, almost completely sung in English, but sometimes – just for the right moments – drifting of into Spanish before coming back to English again. I’ve never been to the States, but after Prelude I know with certainty that the first place I’ll visit will be the Southwest. I want to be where it looks like how this album sounds.
Talking about Spanish, there is a fingerpicked Spanish guitar acting as the backbone of the record, and what a backbone it is; it’s so utterly tasteful and soulful and so very full of character. The rest of the instrumental palette consists of the close-mic’d piano as well as some electric guitars here and there, which sometimes take the songs completely of the rails and almost into noise-territory. I’m thinking of the ending of ‘Your Nomenclature’ here. It’s these bold moments that make Prelude three-dimensional and dynamic and exciting – in a way you wouldn’t normally expect it from a record with the tag ‘singer-songwriter’ on it.
The centrepiece of the record is, without question, Brian’s voice; its really where it all comes together, it all adds up and even though my English is not even remotely good enough to find the right adjectives for how it truly makes me feel, thankfully – through the power of the internet – I don’t need to! Go to the streaming service of your choice now. Listen to ‘Meta, Fall In Line’ or ‘Fade Out’ or literally any other track on the record and get happy. Well, maybe you’ll not get happy right away. But real happiness always comes with a little detour, right? For me, this detour mostly leads down the path of melancholy first, so to my ears, this record is pure bliss.
What’s also pure bliss here is the production. It is slightly retro, warm and unique while sticking to a very minimalist formula, instrumentation-wise. The main focus is almost always on guitar and vocals, the way it should be when songs are this good – you need to let them breathe. It’s just very tastefully executed and you can see a clear artistic vision from beginning to end.
This album is the perfect quarantine soundtrack. It’s music for the individual, not for the masses. It’s overflowing with utterly beautiful melodies and genius songwriting and it really brings you back. It’s sentimentality, and that’s exactly what we need right now.