Cover of Goodman’s latest EP release, Goodman II
Interview and Review by Tia Forsman
Photos courtesy of Goodman
As difficult as it might be to imagine sometimes, there is a world beyond College Hill, and for Brown alumni Michael Goodman ‘13, that world is a place to make new music. New York native and multi-instrumentalist, Goodman was named Artist of The Week for Right Chord Music back in 2013 before he graduated from Brown and is still going strong. His recording project is simply named Goodman, and he just added a new EP to an impressive list of releases dating back to 2012 that already consists of two full length albums and three EPs. To check out his tunes, venture on over to his Bandcamp page or find him on SoundCloud. Keep on reading for a quick review of his new EP and some words from Michael about his music and how his time at Brown helped to develop his style.
Goodman graduated from Brown with a double concentration in Literary Arts and MCM and has been playing music all his life, writing songs since he was about 5 years old. His greatest musical influences range from singer/songwriter Judee Sill to the mid-70’s underground art punk band, Pere Ubu. To describe his own musical style, Goodman explained:
“One time, this Spanish music website tweeted out the link to my first album with the genre tags all in one cluster: "new york pop art indie power pop rock and roll". Maybe that… or the Robyn Hitchcock-coined term, "Beatle music." ”
At Brown, Goodman spent three of his semesters pre-Granoff with a shortage of music-related clubs on campus, but he did participate in COBAB (now known as BMC). He also contributed a few tracks to Clerestory’s student music compilation. As a freshman, he played in the first of BMC’s Speakeasy Sessions and recalls that it “was a cool opportunity to tinker with [his] live sound.” He also admitted to spending a lot of time outside playing guitar as a freshman:
“Yeah, I was that guy. I would see my friends walking by and improvise little ditties for them. One time, my friend Rachel passed by and I started singing this little chorus that I thought was particularly catchy, so I made a mental note of it and fleshed out the song. A year and a half later, when I was set to record my first EP at the studio my buddy Oliver built, Mama Coco's Funky Kitchen, I decided to record it on a whim. It's called "Rachel K" and it became somewhat of a "campus hit" at the time, so that was a lot of fun.”
When asked how his musical style has changed since leaving Providence, Goodman responded:
“I think I've always employed the same sort of song structure, but...I've matured a lot in terms of arrangement. Throughout my time at Brown, I experimented with a bunch of the songs that I went on to record. There's a song on my second record called "Blue Eyed Girl" which was originally a bluegrass-esque song, for instance, and it ended up being recorded as a sort of slowed down, bonkers pop song with stacked vocal harmonies.”
Michael’s new EP, Goodman II, is really a four song preview of a new full album which he has hinted about (the EP came about when he decided the 16-song full length album was too long). He explained that the new album, Amatoria, which he began recording back in January, is “a potpourri of new and old songs” from several stages of his life:
“There's a track based on lyrics I wrote when I was 6, for instance. Because I've been writing songs for so long, I have lots of fragments. Some songs on the album were written in one shot, but others took years to complete. There are a few tracks on the album that I began writing during freshman year of college and I just figured out how to finish.”
Although the songs on Goodman II didn’t make the final cut, they can still hold their own and are anything but leftover tracks. From true rock-and-roll riffs to dreamy synths, these thirteen minutes of music are full of sounds that are bound to excite fans of pop, rock, and electronic genres.
Elements of Goodman’s 2014 full-length release, Isn’t It Sad, are easy to pick up in tracks like “Telegram Girl” on Goodman II. Rowdy guitar and playful percussion were both huge elements in Isn’t It Sad and didn’t lose their command in this new EP. “Telegram Girl” has an attitude-full chorus that perfectly matches the fast-paced guitar parts that so closely echo other tracks on Isn’t It Sad. Goodman sings: “Why should I want to waste my life on a girl who is so confused? Why should I want to waste my life on you?”
The first track on the EP, “Lessons Learned in Love,” takes on a similar tone of a wise romantic. (After all, it’s hard to write a song with such a title without having a bit of experience under your belt.) Many of Goodman’s older tracks do in fact have love-story driven lyrics, but not the classic boy-meets-girl type. If anything, Goodman’s lyrics about love are refreshingly realistic. On the title track of his 2012 release What We Want, Goodman sings: “She’s got priorities and I’ve got pride...we don’t know what we want.” “Lessons Learned in Love” presents the same refreshing perspective.
When asked where he gets most of his inspiration for his lyrics, Goodman conceded:
“I usually improvise the lyrics along with the melody when I'm first writing. It usually comes out as gibberish, as word salad. Then I listen and figure out the meter and rewrite my improvised scratch lyrics based around a lyrical hook I find interesting, one that might serve as the ‘thesis’ of the song. Also, girls and stuff. I write a lot of songs about girls.”
Unlike “Telegram Girl,” “Lessons Learned in Love” has more of an old-timey vibe, with a twonky piano intro and bridge that throw listeners back to the 60s. This is not unfamiliar territory for Goodman; with many tracks on What We Want, he brought nostalgic classic rock tunes back to life in modern music.
“Lady In Black,” the third and shortest song on the EP, clocks in at just over two minutes and gives listeners a break from Goodman’s usually blunt but catchy lyrics. Completely instrumental, “Lady In Black” is the auditory equivalent of a slow, foggy morning and is unlike any other songs from Goodman’s past records. Could this be a reason to expect some interesting updates on the upcoming album? Quite possibly. In fact, Goodman explained “The new record has a pretty diverse array of sounds and textures...it's a big step up…There are new elements. We have some cool gang vocals from a bunch of other musicians on a couple of tracks, as well as some guest fiddle from one of my personal heroes, Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders and the Fugs.”
Of course, right when things shift a little with “Lady In Black,” Goodman falls back to his comfortable rhythmic strumming in the final song of Goodman II, “Movies.” This fourth track carries with it a Beach Boys vibe, but one that is transformed by Goodman’s own unique nonchalant lyrics: “I’ll take you to the movies...whatever will we see, my love?” With foot-stomping rhythm and layered clapping tracks in the background, “Movies” is difficult not to bounce along to.
Ultimately, Goodman II presents four songs united by Goodman’s signature style as seen in his older albums, but points towards progress with subtle changes. These changes are sure to emerge again in the new album. In the meantime, Goodman II’s clever lyrics and mesmerizing melodies will have to suffice. Play it in the background during a study session to enjoy the ups and downs of its sound or sit back and dissect every lyric. These aren’t the kinds of songs that get boring after a couple listens.