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The pandemic has brought about a great number of artistic experiments, often born out of necessity and with varying degrees of success. Music seems to have reaped the benefits more than just about any other mode of expression as musicians are collaborating online now more than ever. The title of Patrick Ames’ new album, The Virtualistics is a winking reference to this increasingly remote recording style, and every performer on the record had never met in person or practiced together. Every song on the album is inspired by the various emotions pretty much everyone has felt in the last year, and many deal with topical subjects from COVID to social unrest.
For anyone looking to let their hair down after the most intense and depressing year in recent memory will not be disappointed here. With songs like “Help People Up” and “Essential Workers” which are unabashedly uplifting or message-driven, Ames’ lyrics are intelligent but never overbearing and always fun regardless of the heaviness of the subject. Even a darker song like “Songwriter’s Block” which has bluesier overtones of Nick Cave or Tom Waits, reminds one more of a masquerade ball where the masks are ultimately temporary, and although the sentiment is genuine it never becomes weighed down with pretentiousness.
The Virtualistics is undoubtedly a product of the COVID age, but it is also a light at the end of the tunnel. Its songs provide a way out, a glimpse of life slowly returning to something close to normal in the near future, and it will be fascinating to hear what comes next from Ames.
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