Ilya E. Monosov is probably a very interesting person in real life. If his latest CD with the cumbersome title of Seven Lucky Plays, or How to Fix Songs for a Broken Heart is any indication, he probably says profound things in between bouts of sitting and thinking. Translating that to music, however, has been less successful. His hushed baritone draws comparisons to Leonard Cohen, but he shows none of Cohen’s confidence or willingness to emotionally expose himself in plainspoken English. He is influenced by traditional Russian songwriting and the European troubadour tradition, and his “songs” are really more like poems over repetitive, simplistic chord structures. While his sound is steeped in tradition and influence, however, his writing suffers greatly from an inflated sense of importance; he recites each line as if it’s just out of reach, quiet enough to be almost unintelligible, but loud enough for us to know that his apparent humility isn’t great enough to keep himself out of the spotlight. He adorns his songs with cellos and synths, and strings. “I tried to taste all your beauty / And indulge in all its ugly forms,” goes the refrain of “The Burning Flame”, a couplet with all the depth of a sidewalk puddle, and that’s just one of the many overcooked snippets of poetry that mar Monosov’s release. It’s hard to criticize a piece of work that quite obviously carries some personal meaning for the artist who created it, but the humorless, overinflated approach that Monosov has taken does no favors for this particular musical endeavor.
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