Those who enjoyed last years self-titled album by Dios, or the latest magnificent album by Sam Jayne’s band, Love as Laughter, should know about one of the men hidden behind the curtain, giving subtle directions and creative input, writing songs and keeping it real: one Miguel Mendez. His contributions to both successes range from subtle to dramatic, yet shrouded in mystery. Who is this Miguel Mendez, and now we may ask, why is his girlfriend melting? Mendez is stepping out from the behind the shadows to bring us this oddly titled collection of songs, but one that is truly rewarding lo-fi alternative pop.
Being from Southern California, Long Beach to be exact (he went to the same school as Snoop Dogg, fo shizzle), Mendez’s music is steeped in the West Coast folk / pop / harmonic style that we all know and love. While his songwriting is as strong and equal to his peers, what will tend to set him apart from folks like Neil Young, Beck and others is his mellifluous voice. Not as whispery delicate as Elliott Smith, yet also not as twangy as Sam Jayne, Mendez finds his home somewhere right between both. In my review for Hawthorne’s Dios, I mention that the song “You Got Me All Wrong” is one of my favorites and “is so well crafted that it makes you wonder where you heard it before, even if it is the first time you have ever heard it. It’s not necessarily that it is similar to another song; it’s just that it’s so damn good it tricks you into believing you must have heard it before.” Well, that song was written by Mendez, and his own stripped down version of the beauty appears on this debut solo album.
With that particular track, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the world of Miguel Mendez. Combining the `alone in the bedroom’ melancholy and regret of Iron & Wine’s early work, the `hanging around with friends’ West Coast feel of Dios (Malos), and the enthusiastic throwback pop of Beulah, Beachwood Sparks, and the Apples in Stereo, Mendez puts together an album that both acts as a major introduction and a lesson for all followers. Besides the track that has appeared in a previous form, songs like opener “Drinking Beers,” “Revolutionary,” “Fond Memories,” and “Catchin’ a Wave” are examples of standout songwriting craft.
So, move over Snoop Dogg! The LBC has a new hometown hero in Miguel Mendez. He may not be representin’ the ideas of sippin’ gin n’ juice, committing 187’s, or doing ‘g’ thangs, but he has just as much right to ask, `what’s my name?’ Unfortunately, at first it might have a different meaning, rather than demanding to be recognized, it will take on the `who the heck is that’ definition. But with time and justice, and maybe a little help from his almost famous friends, Miguel Mendez will be recognized for what he brings to the table of independent music, talent, the art of the craft, beauty, and integrity.