When Michael Avishay disbanded his previous band Heathers and relocated from LA to New York in 2015, it took a while before he went back to writing songs again. Heathers had caused quite a stir on the indie scene, and rightly so. They were raw, angry, loud but with an underlying sensitivity that time and again returned to the surface of their songs. They released a couple of brilliant singles in 2013–2014, appeared on a few compilations and disappeared more or less on the eve of the release of their debut album.
So after a break, during which he played in a „frustration rock“ band (self-definition) called Kew, Michael Avishay is back and finally has a debut album out, this time under his own name. It’s called Rings and he describes it as a break-up album, as in breaking-up with the past, breaking up with one’s own self. Listening to the record, this rings true but we can’t help feeling that the album is also a return to the very beginnings, as in going back to the fountains of what made him write songs in the first place.
Considering that Rings is essentially a home recording, it is striking how incredibly good, rich and professional most of the ten songs gathered here sound. Even more striking perhaps is, when compared to the urgency, anger and pain that drove many of Heathersʼ songs, how laid-back and relaxed this solo album is. There’s lots of acoustic guitar work and even the most Heathers-y song („Could’ve Been Anyone“) is pushed forward by an acoustic guitar that lends it a kind of serenity and maturity that would hardly have had a chance to find a place in the Heathers canon. Hell, there’s even a proper folk ballad here („Is There A Wind“) and some of the songs reveal how breaking up and going back also means to acknowledge that the west coast is still deeply rooted within his system (most notably „Where To Begin“ and „Look Me In The Eye“).
In sum, Rings asserts Michael Avishay as what he’s always been: an outstanding songwriter with depth and width and accessibility. Taking a look at the playlist of artists that influenced the album that Avishay published, some of the names immediately resonate when listening to the album – artists like Bowie, Blur or The Go-Betweens are referenced directly in the songs; one name we associated with Rings though is absent, so perhaps it’s a case of making the artists cringe with a review of his work when we say Rings might well be Michael’s Neil Young album. The wounds of years gone by are by no means forgotten and maybe some of them will never heal but the process of getting better is definitely present in these songs – most evidently so in the self-empowerment hymn that closes the album, aptly called „Narcissus“, the last 30 seconds of which may just be the best thing he’s ever recorded. And yes, the boy will sing.
Rings was self-released digitally and on cassette in August 2018 and is available here: