There’s something a little off about the music Troy Von Balthazar creates, and that’s a good thing because there’s also something a bit normal about it. The normal meets the slightly off; quite interesting. How To Live On Nothing is Von Balthazar’s latest work and it combines the standard traits of folk and pop and rock with bits that are slightly more original. How To Live On Nothing may, for the most part, be normal, but it’s the electronic and psychedelic subtleties Von Balthazar ads are what makes his music so interesting.
And his songwriting, too, fits this mold. “CATT” opens the album on a bizarre, almost psychedelic note before launching into “Very Famous”, one of the album’s many standout tracks. I drink to keep the tigers away, he sings in “The Tigers”, I do what I can to get through the day… I feel like hell, but I look OK. Simple, but effective and thought-provoking. With such compelling lyrics, it’s good to hear plenty of vocal and musical hooks to keep the listener engaged and looking forward to the next intriguing riff or pattern.
And How To Live On Nothing is filled with them. This is an album that begs to be heard not as a desperate plea — definitely not that, the album cover alone screams to be picked up. Each song holds cohesion with those around it, yet Von Balthazar never seems to stale; that’s a telltale sign of a true artist. It continues through “Mt. Balthazar” to the soft lo-fi acoustic notes of “Wings” and the much heavier and harder “Santiago”, on past the dual vocals of “Dots And Hearts”, and rounds out with closing track “Infinity Face”.
Yes, despite a whopping 14 tracks, How To Live On Nothing doesn’t get old. It doesn’t make you want to jump ahead to the next song. It doesn’t make you want to move on to the next album on your playlist. It’s just simple, gripping, and flat-out wonderful.
Photo courtesy Karolina Stanieczek.
Download: “Mt. Balthazar” by Troy Von Balthazar
Third Side Records [CD, 2010]
2. Very Famous
3. The Tigers
4. Happiness And Joy
5. To A Girl With One Wing Gone
6. Mt. Balthazar
7. My Diamond Brain
8. In Limited Light
13. Dots And Hearts
14. Infinity Face