The fun kicks off with the title track, a light-hearted and jaunty affair that sounds something like a travelling circus complete with a catchy Norwegian-Bulgarian singer songwriter Mikhael Paskalev has caught this reviewer off guard with his stunning debut. What’s Life Without Losers channels Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and is also slightly reminiscent of Bob Dylan, yet with a much better vocal ability and sense of rhythm. Paskalev charms across 13 tracks with a veritable smorgasbord of genres that will appeal to even the most straight up rock fan despite the doo-whoops and folk sensibilities.
Jive Baby shows off Paskalev’s innate ability to push his voice to the limit, not in a high note kind of way but uses it in an extremely versatile way, such as modulating pitch and tone, which really needs to be heard to be understood. Slower track Susie really brings the comparison to Dylan to the fore, yet is just as much vintage Simon and Garfunkel in the rare moments when the quick guitar picking dissipates.
I Remember You is again slower and showcases brilliant use of back-up singers as well as using echo to great effect; this track is a masterclass in production whilst managing to sound lo-fi. Meanwhile, Woman is minimalist in every aspect from volume to instrumentation and production. It sounds like a one-take recording that’s every bit a “bedroom record”. It highlights Paskalev’s flaws and imperfections from both a vocal and guitar playing standpoint. It reminds you why real authentic music can never properly be imitated or replaced by electronic music manufactured on computers.
Released originally back in 2012, I Spy is a sort of odds-and-ends kind of song. It features lyrics that feel like they shouldn’t work, then shouting in the choruses and abrasive guitar riffs and layered vocals, not to mention there’s a harmonica and hints of a banjo in there as well. The result is – as it is all the way through this album – a song that works despite the contrasting nature of the sum of its parts.
Mikhael Paskalev has offered up an album that is truly genre bending, something that is often claimed and rarely done. This is a sincere and impressive debut album that’s instantly appealing yet gets better with repeat listens. Like watching the original The Office, you’ll notice things and discover new layers upon each listen.