Italian producer Andrea Mangia has already produced two pleasing, often beautiful albums for Morr Music, and collaborations like “My Winter Vacation” with Dose One (from 2005’s Queue for Love) amply demonstrate his facility at crafting productions for vocalists that go beyond fitting to a kind of symbiotic bliss, but it’s not until this album-length collaboration with New York’s Short Stories (aka Michael McGuire) that he’s really realized his potential.
Over sixteen brief tracks, Mangia and McQuire craft buzzy, soft focus pop songs that split the difference between the synth-rock heroics of days gone by and the more insular, gentler end of shoegaze and dream pop. Even the instrumentals show a marked increase in focus and melodic sense to Populous’ previous work (the brief “Raimondo” being the cream of the crop), but when McQuire brings his wounded and boyish voice and knack for strangely affecting emotional opacity to bear, Drawn in Basic really hits home. The quietly devastating “The Holy See” and the modestly epic closer “Heaven Knows” in particular rival anything put out this year by far more lauded acts. Despite the album title, none of Mangia and McGuire’s work here feels rudimentary or limited; instead, it’s consistently lush, inviting and rewarding. Here’s hoping this collaboration isn’t a one-off.