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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Alan Semerdjian - The Big Beauty

Alan Semerdjian - The Big Beauty
2009, Alan Arts Music

Alan Semerdjian has created a circle with his music where life feeds art and art feeds life. As the front man for New York City band Surreal for most of the 1990’s, Semerdjian toured the East Coast of the United State many times over, sharing the stage with a who’s who of bands and artists and writing music that still gets used periodically for television and movies. These days, Semerdjian is on his own, playing a quirky brand of Alt-Pop mixed with Americana. And I wouldn’t say he’s entirely on his own, as Semerdjian collaborates with an impressive list of friends (including Jen Chapin, Daniel Carter, Nick Gianni and Chris Barron (Spin Doctors)). Semerdjian’s latest release, The Big Beauty, encompasses all of the melodic and lyric charms fans have become accustomed to in a slightly more refined package. The Big Beauty is produced by Rilo Kiley's Michael Bloom, and features Franz Nicholay (Hold Steady), Chris Kuffner (Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor), Dave Diamond (Zen Trickers) and Philip A. Jimenez (Wheatus) among others.

The Big Beauty opens with Your Love, a distinctive melody wrapped in gorgeous harmonies and an Americana-Pop arrangement you won't be able to get out of your brain. This leads into I Can't Tell You How; strong active Americana-Rock that reminds me of what you might hear if Ron Hawkins were ever to jam with the likes of Blue Rodeo. Semerdjian has a couple of WOW moments on The Big Beauty, and the first one arrives three songs in. Bad Dreams is an amazing take on loving someone who is perhaps not emotionally stable. Lyrically, musically and vocally this song is flawless. You Can Run finds Semerdjian taking a Chris Isaak turn with a beautiful yet melancholy tale.

Hole In Your Home is highly textured in arrangement and equally emotive. The two distinctly percussive natures (one literal, the other emotional) come together to create a powerful moment in song. The sometimes shadowing and sometimes juxtaposed natures of these two rhythms seem to echo relationships as the members fall in and out of sync repeatedly over time. Semerdjian rips off the roof on Everything (She's Still The Best). Fans of early Skydiggers/Cash Brothers will listen to this with distinct joy. Semerdjian dishes out a bit of sleight of hand here, opening with a prologue that speaks to his Armenian heritage before slowly transitioning into a driving folk/country arrangement that won't allow you to sit still. Stephanie is a love song that takes a disastrous turn. Keep your game face on, as the lyrics will get a smile out of your before they're done.

Melody combines elements of Jazz, Funk and Blues in a tune that is alternately pensive and busy (perhaps at times too much so). This is a great listen, but does border on becoming too muddy at moments. When There Was Something Wrong With You is the other real WOW moment on The Big Beauty. Semerdjian has crafted an arrangement you won't want to end. This is true ear candy. AM Radio changes pace with a full, multi-layered sound wrapped around an unforgettable melody that's very much down tempo.

Alan Semerdjian has one of those voices you could listen to all day. Take care you don't get so into his voice that you miss on out on the wonderful musicianship, distinctive lyrical style and songwriting that comprise The Big Beauty. Alan Semerdjian has been a critical favorite for a long time, and carries a lot of respect from fellow musicians, but its baffling how he hasn't broken through into the social conscience of a music scene crying for talent like this. The Big Beauty is required listening from an essentially talent. Make sure you spend some time with Alan Semerdjian soon.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Alan Semerdjian at, or The Big Beauty hits the street on September 1, 2009. You can purchase a copy of The Big Beauty at, or you can download the album from iTunes.

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