What kind of a name for a band is LONELY ROBOT? I cannot help but think of the 2008 computer-animated science fiction film, Wall-E, produced by Pixar Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. It was a story about a solitary trash compactor robot cleaning up garbage on the uninhabitable Earth somewhere in the deserted future, zooming a critical lens on the modern way of life and our human concerns, such as love. LONELY ROBOT, the band, approaches somewhat similar pain points from a tad more personal perspective on the new album, “Feelings Are Good,” released today on July 17th, 2020, via InsideOut Music.
This release is the band’s first outing since the wrapping up of the science fiction-themed ”Astronaut Trilogy” last year with the album, “Under Stars.” On this new album, the lyrical focus shifts from the realms of outer space to the equally unfathomable constellations within the human psyche. To answer my question, LONELY ROBOT is a superb name for the solo project of English singer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer John Mitchell, whose name might not ring a bell but chances are that you’ve heard his work in the progressive rock bands such as ARENA, IT BITES, KINO, and FROST*. The name conveys the feeling of a strange kind of otherness, which is even more pronounced by the title of Mitchell‘s fourth studio album under the alias. Just think about it: a lonely robot claiming that feelings are good. There is something very Douglas Adams-like about it.
Musically, LONELY ROBOT does not stray very far from the sonic terrains of those neo-prog outfits that Mitchell has previously worked with. The haunting melancholy is turned up a notch, resulting in a selection of songs that suggest he has either been blessed or cursed with the gift of summoning forth personal demons as if they were household pets to be dismissed into the corner like a naughty child by the turn of a phrase. The bittersweet undercurrent shines through on the very first notes on the album: on the short introductory title track, in which Mitchell attempts to reassure us that feelings are good; in a few vocoder-infested cadences that cascade in a minor key like a sorrowful dirge.
This is the disposition that characterizes the whole album, with four particular tracks standing out due to their overwhelming sense of beautiful melancholy: ”Into the Lo-Fi,” ”Spiders,” ”Life Is a Sine Wave,” and ”Keeping People as Pets.” It needs to be stated, however, that regardless of the music’s inherently minor-key overtones, this is by no means the music to sprinkle the ashes of your life’s dreams upon yourself to. It’s neither depressive nor entirely devoid of hope. The songs set out to build a good balance of dark and light, invoking the kind of melancholy that is particularly prone to help drag us out of the mire by triggering fond memories. “Feelings Are Good” is a highly enjoyable album with strangely uplifting music, given the lyrical themes and the overall mood. As we live in the middle of some of the strangest times in recent human history, this album has all the reasons to resonate with us and act as a sort of tuning fork. Besides, it is better to experience this sort of sadness through art rather than firsthand.
This year is barely past the half-time checkpoint, but I dare claim that “Feelings Are Good” is going to rank very high in my Top-10 when it comes the time to put the albums of 2020 in order by the impact they made. It may be a little early to claim that LONELY ROBOT‘s new album will be the leading wave in the torrent of neo-prog this year, but one thing is certain: it doesn’t necessarily require a melancholic temperament to fully appreciate the aesthetic appeal of John Mitchell‘s latest bunch of gloomy tunes. On more than one occasion, the album is guaranteed to trigger the most pleasant kind of an emotional peak. I can safely say that “Feelings Are Good” is one of the most poignant album releases of the year. It is exactly the kind of an album to console yourself with during these strange and tumultuous times. It’s sad music to save your ass.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Feelings Are Good
- Into the Lo-Fi
- Life Is a Sine Wave
- Armour for My Heart
- The Silent Life
- Keeping People As Pets
- Army of One
- Grief Is the Price of Love
- The Silent Life (orchestral version)
- Crystalline (orchestral version)