The Trouble Being a Critic

It’s hard to write a music review of an album when your name is in the thank you’s. The other day I wrote a review of Maskil‘s new album, Alta Products.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve known the guys in Maskil and been in contact with them for a few years. It started during my sophomore year of college. They showed up unannounced and uninvited to be the last act of a tiny talent show. I was impressed. It was just two guys then, a guitar and a bass. I asked the guys if they’d like to be on my radio show. The next day they were hanging out at my place and we spent the afternoon laying down some live tracks for the radio.

While they were in town I saw them perform at least twice more. I stayed in touch with them and talked again the next time they came through the Twin Cities. This time we put them on our radio show live. At this point I was involved with and made sure Maskil made it to our Indie Band MP3 section. After all that I didn’t hear much more from Maskil.

Then I ran into Aaron Everitt, the band’s founder, at GMA in Nashville. Their newest album had been picked up by True Tunes Records and Aaron was trying to promote it as much as he could. We bumped into each other several times during the week, and tried (without success) to get together for a longer period of time.

Here I am several months later and True Tunes has released Maskil’s latest CD. It’s time to live up to my promise of reviewing the album on Unfortunately, I don’t really like the new album. The Maskil I know and love is really simple: acoustic guitar and bass. Occasionally I’ve heard them with more than that and it works pretty good. But this new album had electric guitar and an organ, it had drums throughout, and sometimes a piano. It just didn’t work. Frankly, it was a disappointment. The vocals and the lyrics were still excellent, but the instrumentation and production didn’t match.

My one hope is that someone will notice the shining moments on the album. The parts that get back to the simple Maskil I remember. The parts were Aaron’s writing stands on its own and the music supports it, instead of battling against it.

When you know someone like this and you have to write an honest review of their album, it’s really difficult. This is probably a great opportunity for Maskil. I’d love to help them out and encourage people to buy their CD. But it’s just not there. It pains me to have to rip into it. I guess that’s part of being a critic.

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