Jonathan Mendelsohn: SNOCAP tracks

Well here’s a first — a review of what could conceivably called a bunch of demo tracks. No album at all.

About the only thing Jonathan Mendelsohn has released commercially is a contribution to the compilation Revolutions, released by the gay-friendly label Music with a Twist, and that track, "Forgiveness", was one of the better ones in the collection.

When Sony was directly involved with Music with a Twist, Mendelsohn’s Myspace page indicated he had major label backing. As Music with a Twist disappeared from consciousness — after really big announcements at the start of 2006 — so it seemed with Mendelsohn’s deal. His label description reverted back to "None".

Instead, he launched a SNOCAP store and posted 10 recordings, which will be referred here as the SNOCAP tracks, since they aren’t really part of any specific album.

One of the problems with Revolutions was a broad brush approach to its selection. The commercially-minded tracks just didn’t sound distinctive even for commercial music. Mendelsohn was one of the few exceptions.

At one time self-described as "blue-eyed soul", Mendelsohn could have ventured down a more American urban path, sounding more like something palatable for ABC Family or the Disney channel. Instead, he sticks to his club music guns, opting for an electronica sound that’s a little bit Europe, a little bit United States.

"Out of Reach", "Not Giving You Up" and "U Jst Dnt Lv M3" would not sound out of place in a DJ set, given their 6-minute-plus length. The more mainstream-friendly tracks — "Kick and Scream", "Over", "Mine to Give" — probably wouldn’t find a home among the over-emoting, over-produced American Idol set, which actually appeals to a rockist such as myself.

The four-on-the-floor beats would certainly be familiar to anyone who’s stepped into a gay bar, but the more ethereal textures give off a sense of maturity. Mendelsohn definitely has a sound he wants to achieve.

Mendelsohn’s voice is smooth, and he has terrific control over its power. He lets out a roar in the chorus of "Over", but he builds up to it instead of just putting it out there. He also knows when to hold back. That kind of sensitivity is usually lacking in this kind of music.

Even though these tracks aren’t packaged as a complete album — I’ve got them listed alphabetically on my media player — they hang together really well as a complete work. If anything, they make Mendelsohn’s slowly-emerging profile feel achingly glacial. At this point, I would usually say, "Give this man a label deal", but labels are in such the crapper these days.

I’d encourage Mendelsohn to explore an independent route, if only to lay the ground work for something more widespread. But judging by these tracks, Mendelsohn is no fluke. His contribution to Revolutions really does show he has much more to offer.

Visit Mendelsohn’s Myspace page to purchase these songs from his SNOCAP store.