Cory Wong’s latest album, Elevator Music for an Elevated Mood, was released earlier this month as his fourth solo studio album. Elevator Music for an Elevated Mood certainly feels like an examination of elevator music, or muzak, if you will, and in some ways, I keep catching myself wondering if it’s an ‘ironic’ album.
There might be elements of irony there, which remind me of the 1990s loungecore trends (hello, Mike Flowers!), but more so, I feel like Wong is experimenting with a jazz/funk fusion – presumably to elevate our mood. And it is an uplifting album. I’m struggling to see how anyone could take major offense to it, but that is probably my biggest critique as well – does it spark enough passion to become someone’s top album of 2020?
The album is mostly instrumental. ‘Treehouse’ is one of the few tracks with vocals, but is also one of the standout tracks with playful melodies, and easy-going singing. There are several layers to listen to and focus on, with Wong’s guitar being a central feature. The very next track, ‘Meditation’, is another favourite. It signals a different pace from ‘Treehouse’ and seems to strip back the layers we just built up, but the two tracks work nicely together, and ‘Meditation’ does feel quite meditative.
‘Watercolors’ opens with a relatively heavy drum beat, one that reminds me of Led Zeppelin’s ‘When the Levee Breaks’, but all other elements contrast this, and the tracks develop into smooth jazz. Perhaps the reminder of Zeppelin puts me in a specific mind frame because, from this point on, I find myself wanting to listen to something a bit heavier. Elevator Music for an Elevated Mood is not an unusually long album at 44 minutes, but ‘Watercolors’ makes it feel very long, and I’m anticipating the end. The album does pick up again with ‘Takeoff’, but my heart isn’t in it in the same way.
Overall, it seems to me that Elevator Music for an Elevated Mood showcases some good instrumental skills and production elements, but over time it becomes a little too bland for me, and I find myself wanting a bit more kitsch. Maybe bigger jazz fans will feel differently?