The phrase ‘catching lightning in a bottle’ is supposed to mean that whatever it was that happened was extremely rare. But, a curious characteristic about that electrified thunderbolt descending from the heavens is that you can create a set of circumstances that will make it likely to reoccur. You can arrange certain factors and set objectively true conditions that will make it more possible that lightning will reveal itself once more, giving you that unmeasurable feeling of success and accomplishment. That is exactly what I feel like happened when notable California-based reggae musician Nate Feinstein (of Iya Terra) and mix-mastering icon and roots legend E.N Young were called upon to help turn fearless multi-instrumentalist Mihali’s (of Twiddle) latest dream into a reality.
All of the right pieces were put in place and all of the correct circumstances were achieved, leaving nothing but lightning to strike again.
The dream I’m referring to is, of course, Mihali’s latest project: a killer full-length album set for release later this year through Ineffable Records that has been put together with a freshly inspired and reinvigorated love for reggae music. The new record is laced from start to finish with so many influences injected from everyone involved. It really allows each additional musician who features to shine in their own way and really put their stamp on the song, making the album even more unique and special. It touches on modern topics and emotions that spark something inside of the listener that truly makes them pay attention to what is being heard.
The Vermont-based artist has had a busy couple of years, steadily releasing singles throughout the pandemic, including hits like “Terrestrial Tango” and “All Day” featuring Iya Terra, both of which exude a heavy influence from the album’s instrumentalist and producer, Iya Terra frontman Nate Feinstein. “Terrestrial Tango” sounds like it was originally written by and for Iya Terra, with those signature heavy guitar riffs and locked-in drum beat, only to realize it had a more fitting home amongst Mihali’s catalog of tunes. The song “All Day” just happened to be Nate’s first song ever produced for an artist who wasn’t himself. “I learned a ton in the process,” says Feinstein, “doing a full record like this, you know? The back and forth with E.N about different specifics… he’s a fucking wizard man, I had a blast. I write a lot of music, so it was nice to not have to write for a project like this one and just get to take an already written song and just explore where it could go musically. Exploring deep territory on how crazy those songs could be — [it’s] really enjoyable man.”
Sent through voice memos recorded on Mihali’s iPhone, containing simply his acoustic guitar and vocals for each song, Nate was able to work his magic and guide all of the tracks through a three step process, starting from infancy to adolescence, leaving it up to E.N Young to be the G.O.A.T. that he is and bring it home, helping the entire album to find its maturity. All the while everyone involved never shared a physical space: everything was performed, recorded and mastered solo, with communication and live mixing happening digitally — like you do in the early 2020’s. Speaking to E.N, he had this to say about working with Nate and Mihali: “Yeah, man what a blessing, the experience has been beyond my dreams or wherever I thought I’d be. When you live life, the key is you can experience something and master it. So, just to have the opportunities I’ve had, I’m so grateful. To link with these guys has been incredible. I’m so honored. The work that Nathan does is top-level. From song writing to instrumentation — incredible. He hit me up saying ‘Hey, you should mix Mihali’s new album’ and he sent me the first track and I was just blown away, I really enjoyed it. Not everything I produce do I fully enjoy, but this, I felt it, I was part of it, I felt the words and the music, every bit of it fit like a glove. It was really a great experience.”
After letting sleeping dogs lie for a year or so, Mihali then came out with “Maplewood”, his first studio offering since a busy 2020, which also saw the musician release his first solo album, Breathe and Let Go. “Maplewood” serves as a lyrical homage to the simple delight found in embarking on life’s epic journey, as well as an ode to the artist’s hometown. “‘Maplewood’ is about turning 18 and leaving home for the first time to discover who you really are,” says Mihali. “It’s a journey filled with lessons and hardships, but also plenty of love and joy. I called this song ‘Maplewood’ after the town I grew up in, a town that showed me a tremendous amount of love throughout my childhood and prepared me for the rest of my life.” As someone who moved far away from home — a home that also taught me plenty of lessons and showed me an abundant amount of love and support — to live on my own at 18, this buoyant, reggae-tinged tune hits home for myself and so many others. Leaving home can be incredibly difficult, but it’s a journey we all must take at some point, even if we return home eventually. It reminds me of a quote from T.S. Eliot that says, “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Mihali’s second new track of ‘22, “Greater Escape”, is an absolute fire collaboration with Josh Swain (of The Movement), who seemingly doesn’t even need to breathe when he’s spitting his one-of-a-kind lyrics, and Jackson Weatherbee from The Elovaters, whose silky smooth vocals blend perfectly with the vibe of the song. “Greater Escape” is able to find balance between a sun-splashed dub instrumentation, Mihali’s individual sound and vibrant guitar improvisation, encouraging anyone listening to find joy despite life’s difficulties.
It’s all about searching for your happy place amongst a whirlwind of distraction.
Mihali shared the following: “I think life can get really overwhelming sometimes; it can start to feel like everything is just piling up into a huge mountain of stress sitting on top of your sun-burnt shoulders. ‘Greater Escape’ is about taking a much-needed reset in times like these. It’s about spending a little time in your happy place, wherever and whatever that may be.” I’m sure every single one of us could use that advice these days. Weatherbee adds, “I was beyond stoked when Mihali hit me up to be a guest feature on his new fire track ‘Greater Escape’. His writing style is so diverse and I love being a part of it.” Josh Swain says, “Just the way the song starts, you know it’s gonna be a banger. You can really feel Nate’s influence on the mix there.”
After sitting and talking with Mihali, Nate and E.N, I can tell that this new album was made by a group of guys who genuinely enjoy what they are doing. I was able to get a sense for just how much everyone involved thoroughly loved working on this project, from Mihali’s songwriting, Nate’s instrumentation and producing, down to E.N’s skills mixing it all together for an epically polished final product. With more singles planned for the spring and summer, Mihali is just getting started on this solo adventure and cannot wait for everyone to hear his new project. Be sure to catch him on tour, don’t forget to check out the latest singles as they drop and keep an eye out for the release of this newest album, coming out later this year. Believe me, you do not want to miss it!
Purchase or stream “Maplewood” single:
Mihali – “Maplewood” single
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.