Sound — 9
This is an interesting review of an interesting album. I would be really mean to start this review pointing the flaws the we can hear on the vocals and in the production, but I guess those will be the things that make this record one of a kind.
Yeah, as I already states, the vocals ain't exactly technical or something you could say "dude, this guy sings really well." Pedro Gabriel's voice doesn't sound any like Peter Gabriel (yes, I had to make that comparison), but he sounds stunishing emotional and follows perfectly crafted melodies. The instrumentals are flawless, with the acoustic guitar having that '60s (and later revived in the '90s) sound that landscapes an infinite field of grass being shaded by the sunset. When the occasional clean electric guitar kicks in, it's like the rain falls down on that field and it creates such a beatiful thing. Impossible not to compare it to Radiohead or early Coldplay.
"A Mile Ago" is pretty well mixed and produced, what doesn't help that much is the fact that this album was recorded at home.
The first song, "A Mile Ago, Pt. 1" is the song that features the most electric guitar parts, and the standout section is the verses, final chorus and the weird bridge in the middle.
"Box Office," probably the best song on the record individually, has a very dark atmosphere and has a mindblowing time signature on the verses. The harmonies on the choruses are also beautiful, but nothing sounds cooler than the angry interlude at the ending, probably the only time in this album you can tell that the singer is pissed off.
"Asteroid" is the only song that has no electric guitar, and it is the saddest song in "A Mile Ago." It has a major chord progression, but the voice is so melancholic and cried that it feels like it's you that is feeling down. The big interude in the middle is one of the highlights of the album.
"Cloud" has a big amount of electric guitar fills and those are probably the most creative ones. The guitar is like a cloud raining and the raindrops pouring above the ground. The chorus is the most beautiful melody in this record and the outro interlude is something else.
"A Mile Ago, Pt. 2" follows a structure similar to The Beatles "Abbey Road" medley, being the highlights the electric guitar solo at the middle, the "Mile 1" revival right after that and following this section a very beautiful reference for The Smiths, with a line that is borrowed from "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out" and a guitar riff that has a "Bigmouth Strikes Again" vibe. The medley ends in great style by ending the same way it started.
Lyrics — 10
Probably the best thing about "A Mile Ago," and also what makes under-underground hipsters love this so hard, is the lyrics. They are sang just like they should, something that puts us in a dialogue with the artist. Most of the verses are about love, but his concept of love is put through infinite situations that most people find hard to put into words. Pedro can talk like a poet deeply in love, ready for doing anything to get his girl (see "A Mile Ago, Pt. 1"), and suddenly add to that formula some complainy and disappointed whispers (see "Cloud").
A really beautiful thing within these two tracks is the sections with an additional vocal melody behind the choruses, sang with a little bit of distortion added to the voice.
The lovely lyrics, however, can morph into a very sad whine (see "Asteroid"), in which is implied that, after many frustrations and lack of sense for his life, he wants to get away from everything and explode all his past left behind.
"Box Office," the second song, probably is the most metaphorical love song I have ever heard. Pedro manages to talk about how he deals with his expectations of getting to love someone and how this person gives him false hopes. He makes this comparison putting himself in the role of a frustrated film screenwriter that is sure his next work will be a blockbuster.
But the final track is probably the peak of lyrical genius we can see on "A Mile Ago." After all the metaphors and things you have to think to actually understand the meaning, Pedro sings us a 13 minute long epic song being the most straightforward possible in his lyrics.
"A Mile Ago, Pt. 2" is a collage of moments/emotions he spent/felt with people whom he loved, and it is so cleverly built that we can actually imagine the scenes going on, and believing in their verocity. This song reminds me of the movies in the "Before Sunrise" trilogy by Richard Linklater.
When "Mile 2" ends, we can hear a hidden track after one minute of silence. It feels like a confession to a particular listener that he lover her unconditionally.
A funny thing is, when we read the lyrics at the same time we listen to the album, it becomes impossible not to love the vocals.
Overall Impression — 9
The influences in "A Mile Ago" are pretty evident, but in the end it is a truly homogenic and original album. Ranging from Radiohead (electric guitar parts), The Beatles (acoustic guitar playing and the vocal melodies, as well as style of production) and Elliott Smith, that might be the one voice that Pedro's can be cited as similar to (see Smith's "Needle in the Hay"), as well as John Lennon's. Songwritingwise, the influences can be the ones already cited, adding to the list Nick Drake, Dylan, Bowie and even The Velvet Undergound.
The best song on the album has to be "A Mile Ago, Pt. 2," but as I stated before, individually, "Box Office" could even be a mainstream hit song. Therefore, all songs here are awesome.
Concluding, I would buy this album again the first chance I had. Supporting underground indie musicians that have something to say and can do enjoyable music deserve to be recognized and successful. Everyone should listen to "A Mile Ago" to find inner peace and have a great time listening to outstanding tales.