http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2015/03/from-mouth-of-wolf-ep-jon-derosa.html. After contacting Jon DeRosa he sent me a link to listen to Black Halo. The album did not push me over as easily as his promo EP did, but push me over it did. Second impressions are always harder, simply because there are expectations. Jon DeRosa fulfilled these, I can assure you.
This review starts with the enormous divide between the looks of DeRosa and his music. The cover photo suggests that we're about to embark on heavy metal or more intense metal kind of music. The difference between the looks and what is on listen here can not be greater, larger, bigger: it's huge. Black Halo takes us back decades, the 40s, 50s and that part of the 60s that still belonged to parents. Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, The Walker Brothers, Frankie Laine, just some names that pop into my mind remembering the record collection of my mother (minus The Walker Brothers). Jon DeRosa is crooning away, but in quite a modern setting, as the older three could never have imagined making an album like Black Halo.
Black Halo is his second album. In 2013 he released his debut 'A Wolf In Preacher's Clothes'. Before that he recorded "Dreamlike ambient-pop work" under the name Aarktica. On Black Halo he worked with the same producer and collaborator Charles Newman, who e.g. worked also with Soko an artist Erwin Zijleman reviewed on this blog. Together they worked in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, where different parts of the album were recorded. Recently The Weepies started to get some attention in NL. Brad Gordon worked on the arrangements on Black Halo and co-wrote 'Blood Moon' with DeRosa.
What Jon DeRosa does to me with Black Halo is touch me in a soft spot. One that most musicians never reach. Jeff Buckley did e.g. and that is about the largest compliment I can give, personally. Also here it is the combination of the voice, incomparable, and the music, incomparable to Saint Jeff also. But both have a hint of mysticism that goes beyond the obvious. Much more is going on in the music than I thought at first and second listening. Most songs are carefully crafted, built up pieces of musical art. With snippets of music all around. I don't know if DeRosa got his million dollar contract, but if he has, he used it extremely wisely. Instruments were not brought in to fill whole blank spaces, no they fill up bits and pieces, creating musical art together. If you take 'High and lonely' as an example, you'll find out what I mean. There's a sound here. A stroke on a guitar there. Some ambient percussion sound, etc. All together it becomes the music DeRosa sings over in his fantastically relaxed way. Dark, slow and self-assured.
Of course 'Dancing in a Dream' impresses me the most again. Knowing the song already and truly having fallen in love with it. This duet with Carina Round is so intensely beautiful that I can listen to it any time. The surprise of Black Halo is that it holds more songs that come very close to this quality. Opener 'Fool's Razor' holds that same melancholy beauty. The kind of song that stops time and space. I can't wait to hear this record on vinyl to be honest. All is perfectly in balance. Warm. Deep. Enveloping. Befriending. Jon DeRosa is a huge talent and I'm really wondering where this record, that is completely out of the space and time continuum of 2015 of course, will take him. I know where it has taken me. This is a five start record.
You can listen to 'the trailer' here:
or buy Black Halo here:
or at Bol.com: