The Upshot: An odd little record from NYC songwriter Andrew Choi, a kind of confessional chronicle that gradually gets under your skin.
BY FRED MILLS
St. Lenox is one Andrew Choi, a second-generation Korean-American who was raised in Iowa but went on to go to law school and practice law school in New York. Along the way, though, he began making music as St. Lenox; Ten Hymns is his sophomore effort, the followup to 2015’s 10 Songs About Memory and Hope.
Choi has subtitled the LP “a gift for my father in honor of his 70th year,” with side A described as “Domestic and Regional Politics” and the flipside “International Relations.” Indeed, throughout the record he meditates upon his memories of high school (“The Public School System”), survivalists and gun nuts (“Conspiracy Theories”), his conflicted feelings towards his heritage (“What I Think About When You Say South Korea”), even the difficulties he has in relating to his parents (“People From Other Cultures” – “she’s from a different universe/ I said it’s different generation”). Lyrically, pretty straightforward stuff, at times uncomfortably so, like if someone were to hand you their personal diary and then sit patiently watching you until you finish thumbing through it.
The accompanying music, though, while intimate in places, has a bit more of a universal, Everyman feel, suggesting a cross between David Byrne and – as has been noted in the press – the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle. “Fuel America” in particular is suffused in an upbeat, anthemic vibe, with the piano as the lead instrument against a backdrop of martial/programmed percussion and minimalist guitar strokes. The track “You Don’t Call Me Anymore” is another high point, boasting a rich melody of descending chords that’s abetted by a contrasting ascending chorus.
It’s an odd little record, a kind of confessional chronicle that gradually gets under your skin. In this era of fractured self-identification, Ten Hymns From My American Gothic nicely serves as a soundtrack for all the searchers and seekers out there.
Consumer Note: It’s available on bright red vinyl. Your choice is clear (obvious).
DOWNLOAD: “Fuel America,” “Korea,” “You Don’t Call Me Anymore”