The healing power of music is one that cannot be measured in a lab or proven through scientific testing. Music is the most potent medicine we’ve got at our disposal as human beings because of its relentless ability to constantly influence our mood, perspective and actions from youth all the way into our elder years. For Del Suelo, music has become much more than a daily dose of medicine – it’s become his very means of survival, and in the new record The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme he describes over the course of 12 songs how music has taken his life and repaired it from the once disruptive mess that it once was and could still be without the one entity that has made his life transcendent.
Let’s start off with the songs leadoff track “Second Encore,” which at first glance is rooted in the same ethos as Del Suelo’s first collection of gems I Am Freebut soon reveals itself to be a decidedly different direction than anything the singer/songwriter has embarked on before. There’s that trademark, Steve Vai-style virtuosity that has made him a household name for indie rock fans across the country, but there’s also a depth to his prose that’s never been present before. Del Suelo is vulnerable and desperate for a connection with the audience; he finds a worthy friend as he struts his elegant prose before our ears and encourages us to get up on stage and join him, half because he needs us there, the other half because we belonged there from the beginning.
The single “Pack Rats” is another big reason to pick up a copy of The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme, but it also doesn’t overshadow the eleven other songs on this record in the slightest. I like the fact that artists are making records that revolve less around a specific song and more around a concept these days, and Del Suelo does a lot to make the progressive format look a lot sexier in the release of this album and this song in particular. As good as it sounds as a single, getting the full context of hearing it play out here beside its sonic siblings is an experience entirely unique unto itself.
Whether you’ve been following his music from day one or are just discovering his awesome sound today, you can’t really go wrong with Del Suelo’s The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme. Progressive rock fans who have been in search of a sweet concept piece to carry them into the 2020s needn’t look any further than this record, and pop fans who have been hoping to see a glimmer of experimentalism awaiting them on the horizon will be thrilled at the stylistic developments and cues for pop culture that this album comes chock full of. Personally I can’t wait for college radio to sink its teeth into this album – few records are so sophisticated that they actually belong spending the majority of their lives on specialty airwaves, but this is definitely one of the best.