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Music Review: Tortured Soul – Did You Miss Me

April 17, 2009

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As one of the few acts in house music to rely almost solely on live instrumentation, Tortured Soul has built quite the reputation in the five years since releasing their debut Introducing. . . . They’ve toured around the world several times over, and although I’ve already seen them once this year, I just might have to see them again when they play DC next month. Led by vocalist/drummer John Christian Ulrich, the New York trio has become known for the seemingly limitless energy they put into every performance, oftentimes playing continuously, mixing one song into the next, like a DJ mixing records. All things considered, it’s a wonder they find time to record new material.

Given the title of their follow-up album, Did You Miss Me, it’s not surprising to hear a handful of songs that actually make reference to the band’s relentless touring. On “Home To You” Ulrich is anxious to get back to the love of his life, with only his music to keep things in perspective. Meanwhile “Did You Miss Me” is more contemplative, with questions of whether or not love was found elsewhere while he’s been away. Other songs tackle the frustrations of dealing with a companion that’s unwilling to commit, with “Time To Make Up Your Mind” immediately followed by “Another Lover”. Thankfully, these songs are so evenly spaced throughout the album that the subject matter never becomes overbearing. The band knows when to take a breather from the joys and pains of love, like with the spoken-word track “We Like Tequila”. It’s a perfect combination of silly and whimsical, set to a breezy latin beat.

Musically, Did You Miss Me preserves the standard elements of house music, but there’s a clear focus on broadening the band’s signature sound. The title track is right out of Motown, complete with rhythmic handclaps and skittering guitar riffs reminiscent of The Supremes’ “Keep Me Hanging On”. From there, listeners can look forward to everything from full-on 70s disco to a little bit of rock, New York soul and R&B, and new wave synth pop. Ulrich’s silky soulful vocals continue to hold everything together, although there are the occasional moments where you might think you’re listening to Jamirouqui. Beyond that, the album is an undeniable success creatively, guaranteed to keep clubs and house parties jumping all night. What more could you ask for?

(4.25 out of 5)

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