Thursday, March 29, 2012

Album Review: The American Dollar - Awake In The City

Album Rating: A
The American Dollar is two guys in New York City, creating music amidst the rush and sounds of living in a busy place. Coupled with their own musical influences, it seems that a lot of their inspiration is the city itself. Most of their album art is relevant to living in a metropolis that burns bright, and the music on this particular album really reflects that. Awake In The City is a beautiful compilation of songs that help to reveal a new side of New York, and a strain in music that is rarely seen - music with real beauty. John Emanuele and Richard Cupolo harness their surroundings, their own musical prowess, and the tools they have available to them in order to create a truly beautiful record, packed with emotion. In a city known for business, power, and people, Emanuele and Cupolo show the listener a city with heart, emotion, and life.

The music on Awake In The City differs from releases like Atlas in the sense that it all seems very refined. Maybe not necessarily controlled, or uncontrolled, at that instance, but with polish, and finesse. That may be from a musical advancement over the years, but I think it also represents the structure and flow of the city. Maybe not everything is refined and orderly, but I think it's a pretty cool parallel to draw, and it's a very neat comparison when you look at the album art and imagine what Emanuele and Cupolo are thinking when the music is playing. While on the idea of musical advancement, though, I do think there is a certain finish that the new release presents that some of the others lack. I can't really put my finger on it - maybe something between the raw, instrumental sound versus the airy, well-tweaked post-rock quality, or perhaps something about the orchestration of the songs and the album, but the songs sound fuller, more rich, and more lively. It's really worth the time for a listen to compare releases such as A Memory Stream to the current release in order to try and check this hypothesis.

On the music of Awake In The City, I think it's absolutely brilliant. The American Dollar covers pretty much all the bases on the album, and it has a little bit of electronic flair (well, I guess you could say more than a little bit with all of the synths, but it kind of falls second to noticing what's created by the music) that makes everything just wonderful. With a dash of trip-hop on "Strings" or "Urbana" contrasting wonderfully to the instrumental masterpiece "Heavy Eyes Ignite", sounding something like a slow Mogwai anthem, it's just a vivid coupling of music. Then, when you set it along side an open, echoic piece like "Oracle", you realize just how subtle some of these touches are, and The American Dollar begins to fade as an image of a band, and instead starts to come forth as a reflecting pool. You stand at the edge, peering forth, expecting to see merely your reflection. What comes out is both more dynamic and profound than the surface level, because what comes out is a realistic countenance of who we really are - human.

Awake In The City means a lot musically. It's not just a musical reflection of New York, or a general metropolis, or of people, but a musical representation of everything. From society to humanity's effects on transforming a natural bounty into a bustling cultural center, from active night life to the early hours of the day where you find out who a person really is, and from a passing from the naivety of existence in childhood into the understanding of the world in adulthood. This album is growth, life, success, activity, but also passivity, failure, death, and most importantly, acceptance. No matter who you are, you will find some emotional tie in this album, I can guarantee it. This album is undoubtedly special, and it has a powerful effect that renders me both vocal and speechless. Exactly what it means to you is up to how you perceive this album, and the world around you, dear listener.

This album is available on The American Dollar's Bandcamp, and if you buy it for more than $20, they will send you ALL of their 8 releases in MP3 format for download.

Track Listing:
01) Faces In The Haze
02) Heavy Eyes Ignite
03) Ether Channels
04) First Day
05) Steeltown (Part One)
06) Steeltown (Part Two)
07) Strings
08) Crossing Asia
09) As We Float
10) Urbana
11) Friends of Friends
12) Oracle


  1. James LoveTheDollarApril 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    This album is amazing. Highly recommend it.

  2. What a crap review for an amazing album. To say "The American Dollar begins to fade as an image of a band, and instead starts to come forth as a reflecting pool." is offensive, self-serving and obviously comes from the mouth of someone who isn't a musician. This is a duo comprised of a very accomplished drummer and even more accomplished guitarist/keyboardist. There are so many aspects of this duo you fail to address in this review. The seamless integration of electric guitar, live drums and sequenced electronic accompaniment is unique in this day and age and represents a huge step forward in the evolution of music. Have you ever seen them live? "With a dash of trip-hop on "Strings" or "Urbana" contrasting wonderfully to the instrumental masterpiece "Heavy Eyes Ignite""? Is there a song on this record that ISN'T instrumental? I love these guys and I have been playing professionally for over 25 years. You make no mention of the fact that these two kids from Astoria are reaching larger and older audiences than most of their contemporaries, touring worldwide and have had a lot of their success because of a time-lapse video on Vimeo called "Manhattan In Motion" by Mindrelic? It would have been nice to showcase the new videos they are doing or to at least MENTION that the new videos are also time-lapse? If you are going to write for musicians do us all a favor and do your homework kid, this is doing a great up and coming artist a HUGE disservice. I DON'T CARE how it makes you FEEL, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE BAND!!!!!

  3. Firstly, he gave it an A. so don't complain about how good he thinks the record is.
    Secondly, reviews are about what a specific reviewer thinks about an album. It's not a history lesson.