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coverpic flag US - Connecticut - Full Moon 200 - 12/28/12

Grandpa Was A Lion
Mona Lisa Apple

Mona Lisa Apple was released some moonths ago (in fact, it's been five months ago...), but since Justin D'Onofrio's a 'regular guest' here at Luna Kafé. His Grandpa Was A Lion (GWAL) project has been up and running for some years, and he's indeed a creative guy. Mona Lisa Apple is more of the trademark "chillwave dreampop" which is served by D'Onofrio on earlier occasions. 'Floating folk pop', could be another tag. Pleasant music, for sure, but don't expect any musical party poppers.

With Mona Lisa Apple GWAL/D'Onofrio takes a short trip to Europe, with songs like "Belgian Waves" and "Paris" - or is it, Paris, TX...? I guess it's the 'real' Paris. And, yes. let's not forget the album title itself, with the world famous Madame from the Musée du Louvre. D'Onofrio even 'goes to' England and revisits "Strawberry Fields Forever". It's a tough job to cover The Beatles, at least coming away with it, head held high. I'll come back to that. 15 songs might be a few to many. That said, most of GWAL's songs clock in at somewhere between two and four minutes, which is a good, wise formula.

GWAL's pop songs have got a simplistic style. 'Less is more' is king. This is of course lo-fi elegance and experimentation, but the outcome doesn't sound as the common 'bedroom-lo-fi' world. Like always there's this fragility stamp on his songs. They're mostly toned down, low-voiced and tender. Such as the opening "OS X". "Paris" doesn't work for me (never has been a big fan of the city, either). It's the longest track (5:34), and could've/should've been trimmed some. "Belgian Waves" works better, being more 'lively' and 'orchestrated', if that's a way to describe GWAL. When listening through the album, I also notice it's a slow starter. Which also means slower than usually/normally for GWAL stuff. Midway through the album manages to lift off, to become airborne. And, yes, it happens with the songs "Elvis" and "Rock & Roll", the latter (maybe the former as well) being sort of a homage to rock music. Other songs I'd like to mention are "The Test Dream", "War", "Jazz Experiments in C", and the excellent "An Imaginary Conversation". So, what about the classic, GWAL's rendition of The Beatles? Well, honestly it isn't bad. It's a decent, sober cover version, but I'm not sure why he decides to include it on an album. But, like I said, it's a pretty fair go at this song.

Grandpa Was A Lion is an exciting 'band' project to follow. Yet, Mona Lisa Apple feels to be a bit too long (about 51 minutes in total). Or, rather; it holds too many songs, of which some are mere sketches that should've had some reworking before saying hello to the world. Don't get me wrong, Mona Lisa Apple isn't that weak. It's good, actually. But, the best thing about GWAL is that it's so hard, almost impossible, to name other artist/bands that GWAL sound like, or can be compared to.

Copyright © 2012 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Grandpa Was A Lion articles/reviews: Archaic EP, Caged Birds, Dancer, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, The Whalestoe Tapes.

© 2012 Luna Kafé