John Anealio: The Summer EP (2013)

Short but sweet.  The reason why John and I have been Facebook friends for so many years is something I’ll never remember, although I *think* it had to do with a science fiction book review site I used to write for.  Regardless, once I became acquainted with John I discovered his one-man DIY rock/pop confections, songs that so beautifully capture the harmonies and emotions of growing up in the 80s and having music not only be such a part of your life, but seeing that life reflected everywhere – on the radio, in stores…the sound of your soul omnipresent and popular with no one skulking in the background muttering about obscure bands and “real” music.

If you know John’s music at all, it might be from some of his more popular tracks like “George R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch” or”Geekdad” both of which had more than a bit of online popularity, particularly in the nerd circles I ran with.  In his keen sense of pop and nerdery he’s similar to musical acts like Paul and Storm or Jonathan Coulton, but like Coulton my favorite stuff of his are the more personal, original tunes.  So with that, enter The Summer EP.

“Ferris Wheel” is a perfect little gem of a summer pop song, clean chords backing up Anealio’s sonorous voice against a simple backbeat.  Purposefully simple, because the kick is the melody, which carries a tale of young love at the end of summer at the boardwalk.  And as confectionary as that is, “San Luis Obispo” is the exact opposite: a fragile, acoustic reminisce for a simpler, happier time.  It’s probably my favorite thing Anealio’s ever done, touching on small moments like the line

California seems so far away
and Katie moved back home to Santa Fe
and I’m happy in New Jersey anyway

which recalls a singular wistful, happy/sad feeling I feel like I lived in most of the first 20 years of my life.

“Kathy’s Kalifornia” can almost act as the other perspective from “San Luis Obispo” as Anealio spins a story of young Kathy moving out to California from New Jersey and Catholic School to find herself.  And “Crescent Street” ends the EP in a fever dream of every young man fantasy of dramatic gestures and love in a sweltering heat.

On each track Anealio shows a gifted facility with hooks and arrangements and finding a kernel of truth in a chord, or a lick, or a turn of lyrical phrase.  Writing, performing, and recording everything himself was an inspiration to me as I struggled to find a voice to express all the things I was dealing with: the death of my father, a lingering depression and a general fatigue I would only find out years later was due to a number of factors more medical that mental.  But here was someone just expressing himself beautifully, and doing it while being a husband, a father, and a glorious nerd – three things I had always framed myself as.

Coming back and revisiting The Summer EP (to be fair I also spent a ton of time with Anealio’s full album Laser Zombie Robot Love and the orchestral instrumental EP Walk the Fire) reminded me of the values I learned to find within myself, and also reminded me that John Anealio really needs to get out some new music.  Geeky podcasts aside, it’s his notes and words that drove me as mush as anything to share the music I’ve been creating over the past two years, and for that, and for the lovely Summer EP I’m eternally grateful.


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