Reviewed by Donovan Johnson
Crossroads is a 2016 recording released by pianist, musician and composer Marc Enfroy. The album also features vocalists Aili Laine, Lila Ives, and Paul Enfroy. I have a lot to say about this album, much more than I can sum up in just one review, but I'll start by saying that “Crossroads” is an honest and true musical adventure. It's is an album that is full of compositional mastery, and the writing in the pieces has clearly seen a painstaking and tedious intention behind every note and chord progression. Marc blends many different sounds to create “Crossroads,” some that are quite unconventional, and he makes it work brilliantly. Piano, strings, electric guitar, “techno style” synth pads, and vocals can all be found here. It's an incredibly diverse album as well, and “Crossroads” will have you listening to music that is energetic, meditative, and everything in between. Some of the songs are top 40 material and others are much more unique in their genre, but all of the songs share Marc Enfroy's personal signature. Definitely in my top five favorite albums of the year, “Crossroads” is refreshingly innovate and at the same time incredibly listenable.
On an album of 16 mind blowing tracks, it's difficult to choose three favorites to write about. “Your Silence Is A Razor” would have to be one of them though, as this track harnesses the freshest and most modern approach to musical songwriting I've heard in the genre to date. Aili Laine sings with seasoned passion as the music powerfully drones around her voice, and we're taken to our knees in this somewhat crushing rock ballad. The piece builds quickly, and once it does, it never stops pushing the sound at you – it demands your full attention. This is music that will not let your ears take a break until it's over, and it's absolutely magnificent.
“Fading White” is a detour from that experience, beginning with some soft synth pads and a beautiful melody, skillfully sung by vocalist Lila Ives. As the piece builds, we're introduces to violins, piano, and eventually a full drum kit and background vocals. Every song on this album has a way of building into something incredibly intense, and this song is no exception. By the time we get to the end of it we find ourselves immersed in a piece that moves in a number of directions, ebbing and flowing in intensity, and ultimately taking us through the rafters with musical emotion. It's clear that Marc is taking no shortcuts in having prepared an album that is the highest quality product. The vocals are simply amazing, and the recording itself is beyond effective in delivering a musical experience that is breathtakingly memorable.
“Wildfire Rising” begins like a piece from a motion picture soundtrack. Piano and ambient pads, with some light violin work open the song. Before long, the music explodes into something completely different, combining heavy distorted guitar and world music elements. Ambient vocals, piano, bass and drums lead the listener into a blazing wildfire of sound and expression, and there's no backing away from it. There's a really nice build up in this piece about three quarters of the way through, at which time everything dies down momentarily, leaving only the piano and violin parts. From there the music builds again, guiding the listener to a tense and eruptive ending. The combination of world music elements and rock feel would probably make “Wildfire Riding” my favorite track on the album.
“Crossroads,” frankly, is not for the faint of heart. This is not a recording to relax and listen to. It's an incredibly complex collection of songs that do much more than simply engage the listener. These tracks command you to go out of your way, to enmesh yourself in the experiences and the stories that this album attempts to tell. It's aggressive, dominating, invigorating and exhilarating all at the same time. This is music with complete and total intention behind every single track, start to finish, and it's the kind of album that is a rarity in any genre of music. After all, even the strongest of composers don't create genius works all of the time. I give “Crossroads” my highest recommendation, and I think anyone and everyone should give it a listen. There's something for absolutely everyone to take from this brilliant recording, and I give it ten stars out of five. Well done “Crossroads” team!