Think of Mike Andrews as a junior Jon Brion. He’s L.A.-based, has scored music for indie films (Donnie Darko, Me and You and Everyone We Know), and is a Svengali for a brood of up-and-coming singer-songwriters that includes Inara George. His first full-length, Hand on String, should get him closer to being as well-known as his Kanye-producing counterpart.
Things start out appropriately cinematic. “Something Already Happened Again” is a buzzing, burbling, urgent-sounding instrumental. Other similar filmic set pieces include “Sweeping, Cleaning, and Organizing,” filled with the grunts and groans of doing said activities, and the rainy, slow closer “Something Already Happened,” featuring a piano part Erik Satie might have written.
When Andrews sings, his subtle, inviting voice hardly registers above a whisper. It’s the songwriting that carries the strength. “Tracings” is fraught with an artist’s self-doubt; Andrews frets, “I never sing/ I often write/ I mostly lay there thinking I’m afraid to fight.” “See Me Plain” makes good use of a simple ascending/descending melodic line. “Love is Tired” is a classic wrecked relationship lament. And the title track is Andrews’s ode to the art of songcraft.
Elsewhere, Andrews experiments with forms beyond the ’70s Laurel Canyon folksy vibe that dominates the album. “Just a Thought” comes straight out of Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles material, complete with a gloriously silly keyboard solo. And “Orange Meet Lemon” and its partner “Hello Lemon” are loungey, L.A. poolside cool.
Andrews’s next steps should be fun to follow. He’s working in his studio with Inara George on her follow up to All Rise, will surely get more work scoring films and, I hope, will still have time enough to keep creating albums as accomplished as Hand on String.