Swinging like a tree branch in a hurricane, Mike Donello & the New Essentials dispatch a beat that will have your hips moving in synchronicity to the grooves of “Southside” inside of the song’s first few bars. “Southside” is a rhythmic slice of heaven, but if you think it’s the only paradise Donello and his band are offering up on their self-titled EP, you’re sorely mistaken. In this track and the four others included on the disc, tasty beats and sexy singing are par for the course, drawing us into a melodic web of pop, rock and R&B textures designed for the music buff in all of us.
Though the instrumentation in “Setting Things in Motion” and “Roll” is beautiful by all accounts, the real star of the show in these two tracks in Mike Donello’s voice, which slides its way in between all of the feverish elements in the melody only to unite every part of the music in a single harmony. He’s got a heck of a way with words, but even more important than what he’s saying is how he’s choosing to say it. His vocal style is everything to the mood of this record, and none of the material here would fly as well as it does without it.
The mixing in Mike Donello & the New Essentials isn’t overdone at all, but it definitely emphasizes intricacies within the band’s sound more than most would (in the instance of a debut record, at least). I get the vibe that this group wants us to feel every inch of sonic depth they can muster in tunes like the bluesy “A Better Day” and “Southside,” and though it might not fit the narrative of the average pop band in the United States right now, this might be what makes them so unique as a unit.
I think that the physicality to the bass parts in “A Better Day,” “Fun and Games” and “Roll” is an excellent addition to an already phenomenal production quality, and they also suggest that these tacks could be remixed for the needs of pop radio or even a bumpin’ nightclub just the same. Versatility is what separates the pros from the Joe Blows in this game, and in Mike Donello & the New Essentials, Donello and his well-selected group of players make certain that their music is the very antithesis of the rigidity plaguing many of their underground contemporaries.
The possibilities truly are endless for this act right now, and judging from what I’ve heard in the five songs on their debut record, I think it would be a safe assumption to make that we’re going to be hearing a lot more good stuff from Mike Donello & the New Essentials in the future. 2020 has only just begun, but this group is already establishing themselves as a forward-thinking indie project that wants to make music for everyone who loves a sweet beat. Their goals and the core of pop are relatively the same, and that’s why their first EP is the treasure it is.