Imagine a stained glass window with its fragmented colors and shapes.
Each shard is unique in its own right, but when you view it in combination with the others around it, it gains something. Purpose, perhaps — the importance of being a part of a larger, singular image.
You could say Michael Carlos’ new album, “Here It Comes,” follows the same principle.
“I’m kind of old-school. I write albums, not single tracks to sell on iTunes,” Carlos said.
While the single tracks that compose it (something old, something new, and yes, a little something borrowed from previous albums) are eclectic in genre and content, the album itself is united thematically, telling stories of the hardships of love.
Don’t be deterred, though, chances are these stories aren’t quit the type you’d expect. And chances are that if you’re a fan of Carlos and have given his last two albums, “Yesterday’s Icons” (2004) and “Damage and Remainder” (2008), a listen you’ll be a little taken aback by his new sound — or rather his new sounds.
“It definitely leaves behind the singer-songwriter milieu,” Carlos said, pointing out the uncharacteristic bossa nova instrumental “Menina do Jardim.” “Every track changes genre.”
While a single thread may bind the album, from beginning to end you’ll hear blues, rock, reggae, ska, two different languages (English and Spanish), and a different message and story in each track.
“There’s some reality in there,” he said. “But there’s also something trying to be a little more universal.”
The first track, “Beautiful and Cruel,” for instance, doubles as a man recounting his difficult lady friend and Carlos’ personal commentary on the music industry.
Carlos has put to music everything from the “superficial relationship” between a musician and his fans, to the observations of failed and failing relationships.
The title track, “Here It Comes,” documents a man approaching the middle of his life.
“That one’s pretty personal. I couldn’t sleep one night — this was a couple of nights before I turned 40 — and I had some mid-life crisis story brewing in my head,” he said. “I had some of the key components just hit me.”
“Shanked,” which has two versions on the album, tells a darker, fictional story of a woman scorned whose anger turns murderous.
“I try to make those lyrics humorous so when you’re talking about a guy getting stabbed it’s not so dark and sad,” he said.
Apart from Carlos’ newly revealed spunk stylistically, this album is also unique in that it’s the first Carlos has produced independently. His first album was produced largely in Chicago and his second was only partially self-produced.
“This is 100 percent self-produced, I guess there’s a lot more heart invested in it,” he said. “I really hope it gets appreciation for that if nothing else.”
The album also drew on a lot of local talent during its production, making its sound unique to the area. Local musicians Eric Frank, Sergio Cuevas (of Chumstick Liberation Front), Monica Cahalan, Eden Moody, and Wayne Evans (of Junkbelly) all contributed an instrument or voice to the mix. Also on the album was Mark Oi, a guitarist known for his work with famous reggae artist Clinton Fearon.
Carlos himself hails from central California, where he began taking his first music lessons.
“I took up piano at about age 9, took lessons until I was 12, and that’s about it for my formal training,” he laughed. “I did pick up a few more lessons at the Icicle Creek Music Center to straighten out my poor technique I’d picked up over the previous 25 years.”
However, he is as much scholar as he is musician. After attending the University of California, Los Angeles for ecology and evolutionary biology he earned his master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma. He later lived in Chicago, where he earned his doctorate and performed “mostly in bad cover bands.”
“By bad I mean sloppy musicianship,” he said. “And I couldn’t sing very well. Being able to sing has been a process — from the first record to this, there’s been an evolution.”
Now, he teaches science classes in the evenings at Wenatchee Valley College and is “heavily booked” at venues from Chelan to Yakima. Between work and music, he says finding the time to produce an album is difficult, but he has no plans of stopping and has a few tracks that still remain out of the public eye.
“There were a couple of stragglers that didn’t really fit ‘Here It Comes’ thematically or stylistically,” he said. “I think my next record will be a lot less of a production.”
Carlos’ newest album releases online Oct. 29 on nearly every major music site, including iTunes, Rhapsody and SoundCloud. There will also be a CD release party at Caffé Mela Nov. 2 where fans can grab a CD at a discounted price — the only way to get a CD without purchasing it online.
If you go
What: Michael Carlos Band CD release party
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 2
Where: Caffé Mela
Cost: $10, tickets purchased in advance include a CD