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Michael League: So Many Me (GroundUp)

Review of the Snarky Puppy head honcho's first solo (literally) album

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Cover of Michael League album So Many Me
Cover of Michael League album So Many Me

So Many Me makes an inspired title for Michael League’s first solo project, in part because it’s so on the nose: He’s responsible for every sound—every vocal, every instrument—heard on the recording’s 11 tracks. But the title also points to his genre-fluid identity. League, for nearly two decades the bassist, composer, and arranger of hard-touring oversized jazz/fusion outfit Snarky Puppy, in recent years has taken on new roles. He plays baritone guitar and other instruments with world-music aggregation Bokante, and he has sung and played guitar with folk-rock superstar David Crosby in the latter’s band Lighthouse.

A product of League’s quarantine period in Spain, So Many Me represents a major musical divergence from his other work. It’s really more about ethereal pop than anything else, with his multitracked vocals, often clustered together in lush harmonies, topping synth-heavy keyboards. Polyrhythmic percussion, which he has identified as Moroccan, Turkish, and Kurdish, constantly simmers underneath it all. The soundscape sometimes hints at ’80s pop—Tears for Fears, Prefab Sprout—as well as jazz vocal groups and even contemporaries like Jacob Collier and LANY.

The multicolor textures kick in right away on opener “Sentinel Species,” with its zipping Moog figures, nervy, distorted guitar solo, and sudden dropouts. “Sometimes I feel like I just can’t figure it out,” League sings at one point. There, as elsewhere, his lyrics sometimes veer to the dark side: “thinking about dying” on “Me, Like You,” “we’re kings of pain” on “In Your Mouth,” “the dreams I’ve lost” on closer “The Last Friend.” So Many Me nevertheless feels like an adventure in possibility, as League, during a frustrating time, found the time and psychic space to explore new directions, ultimately resulting in an appealing, deeply personal project.

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Philip Booth

Philip Booth is a longtime arts journalist and bass player based in Florida. Formerly the pop music critic for the Tampa Tribune, he has contributed to many national publications, recently including the Washington PostJazziz, and Relix. His byline also has appeared in DownBeat, Bass Player, Billboard, Variety, Spin, Rolling Stone, and several academic journals. Sharkskin, the second album from his long-running band, Acme Jazz Garage, has aired on radio stations across the U.S.