Twice The Animal

Chris Eminizer

Independent release, 2009

http://www.myspace.com/chriseminizer

REVIEW BY: Giselle Nguyen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/30/2009

Chris Eminizer may not be a household name, but the New York multi-instrumentalist is certainly no stranger to music. Having played and recorded with the likes of Paul Simon and Janet Jackson, as well as writing music for television (including Oprah), Eminizer’s musical approach is wide and varied – but sometimes so varied that it teeters on the brink of inconsistency.

His latest record, Twice The Animal, is an ambitious foray into a spectrum of musical color, from humble acoustic songs to raucous jazz numbers. There’s a bit of Bob Dylan in the country drawl of “Crack Shot,” while most of the laidback acoustic pieces have a John Mayer-type feel, with “Shark Cage” in particular offering a nautical sense of private introspection as Eminizer’s honey-like voice spills over from a shy verse into a gorgeously catchy chorus. 

Eminizer has a particularly charming way with words, his lyrical content providing an insight into the complex person that he is. On the opening track, “Form A Single Line,” his voice is filled with childlike wonder as he bashfully sighs, “I wake up from a daydream as the kettle starts to sing / My mind fills up with everything”; there is no such innocence to be found in the meaning behind tracks such as “Float Away,” though, which showcases a darker, more cynical view of life. The album’s lyrical diversity is one of its best features. Eminizer is a poet as much as he is a musician, sharing his innermost thoughts with the ears of strangers who, in turn, begin to feel like friends through the intensely personal nature of his carefully enunciated words.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Musically, the more downbeat acoustic and pop-rock tracks on the album have a couple of memorable moments, with the clever nursery rhyme-esque “Move Along Now” featuring a perfectly sing-along-able chorus and a bevy of different emotions running rampant on “Beautiful Catastrophe.” The softer and poppier songs also feature brief sax appearances, but by no means as heavily as the album’s two most creative tracks, “Borrowed Name” and “Something Happened Here.”

Being that his specialization is the saxophone, the strongest moments on the record are those in which Eminizer probably feels most at home. “Borrowed Name,” featuring an infectious piano riff accompanied by a chunky upright bass, allows his feel for funk to really shine through. The effortlessly smooth chorus deliciously counters the groove of the verse, with Eminizer’s voice gliding above a saxophone swirl. In a similar sense to well-known jamsters Dave Matthews Band, the more upbeat tracks on this record have a tight sense of musical cohesion. The extended jams and musical solos are really something to marvel at, displaying a strong and admirable understanding of rhythm and harmony.

With all that said, though, the huge volume of acoustically orientated singer-songwriters flooding the music circuit in recent times means that it’s hard to write an acoustic track that really leaps out. While Eminizer’s softer tracks aren’t by any means bad, they don’t include enough musical innovation to be particularly significant or hard-hitting either, despite being pleasantly easy to listen to.

Eminizer’s concise talent with jazz and improvisation, on the other hand, is much more likely to get people to sit up and really take notice. With only two of the twelve tracks really dominated by the funk groove, though, it feels like Twice The Animal is half the album it might have been.

A more focused approach on jazz would hugely improve Eminizer’s next record, whenever that may occur. Twice The Animal is a sound but somewhat incomplete introduction to the ambitions and passions of a great talent whose energies are most commendable when channelled into his prime area of expertise.

Rating: B-

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