Album: Gloria EP
Credits: Written and performed by Milano/ Recorded & Engineered by Milano, Alan Hackert and Brantley Vosler/ Mixed by Alan Hackert and Milano/ Produced by Milano. All in their basement.
I first heard about Jon Guerra and his merry band of musicians a year ago. On a return visit to the UK, an old friend of mine gifted me with a copy of Milano‘s Zombie World EP. If a bunch of socially conscious gypsy rockers decided to write show tunes, then that EP would be central to the production. The songs were catchy, convicting and adventurous. This year sees the release of a second EP, Gloria, and listeners are in for a treat and a challenge. Let me tell you up front, Gloria might be the freshest thing I’ve heard all year; chock full of melody, clever lyrics, riffs, musical diversity (Gypsy Prog Prophets is a moniker they’ve recently earned) both stylistically and instrumentally – it’s all here. You need to go and listen.
And in the midst of it, this Jesus loving guy drops an f-bomb.
Some people maybe just left the site, never to return. I mean, how could I recommend such an anomaly of nature right? Because everyone knows one thing for sure: Christian’s shouldn’t cuss. Sadly, the context of the aforementioned f-bomb is pretty important to its use. But too late. Only you brave souls left reading get to know that an interview with Mr. Guerra is coming very soon to the blog, and we’ll be talking Christ, culture and cussing. Should be a blast, eh?
Whilst Zombie World had as its core issues of consumerism portrayed in the metaphorical undead, Gloria has a focus on a future culmination rather than present distress. Opening with the fist pumping “A Day Is Gonna Come”, Guerra displays a growing clarity and range in his vocal which on the previous recording had some of the wildness of Jeff Buckley’s live performances, but is now displaying greater control and coherence.
“Gloria”, the title track, is all exultant joy, infectiously drawing us into the narratives of lives encountering the majesty and glory of God. Dripping luscious harmonies, rich string parts and stadium sized rock soundscapes, this is music on a grand and epic scale, the kind that makes you sing along until singing is no longer possible.
Then the crazy gypsy vibe arrives in full force, but these gypsies have Eastern European flair to their music as “So What?!” comes bounding out from the speakers. Guerra cites Taraf de Haidouks as the band that started the gypsy influence for him. As if to highlight the moment as dramatically as possible, Milano take this wild and crazy dance into a loungey breakdown as Guerra croons, “If you’re mouth is running close it shut/ I may only say this once/ So listen up/ Everyone in this room is f**ked up/ Everyone is…/Everyone is…” I haven’t had the chance to talk with Jon about it yet, however, from the musical construction, this was no off-the-cuff moment, but instead an intentional declaration of what is really true. Without Jesus, we’re all a mess.
To break us from the shock of realization comes the dynamic “Come On, Come On” which begins sparsely but soon drops a firm beat and bass. The chorus has the zombie sway of their former EP and delivers a little extra aggression to the mix. These songs are going to connect with diverse audiences and surely raise the bar on the level of excellence Christians should aim for in any creative endeavor.
To end things comes the beautiful “A Holy Song” where strings, banjos and more emerge to lead us into the climax of a dazzling display of artistry, juxtaposing with this lyrics that speak to judgment, betrayal and more; though not surreal, the lyrics are not always clear in their meaning drawing you into closer examination and, personally, self-examination. It just goes to show that sometimes beauty is not comfortable, nor should it be.
Expect to see this on my list of highlights of the year, and consider getting lost in Milano yourself.
Come back on Monday for an interview with singer/songwriter Jon Guerra.