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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Composer for NPR's Snap Judgment Live, Pixar's Brave Soundtrack, and East Side Sushi releases first solo album


Composer for NPR's Snap Judgment Live, Pixar's Brave Soundtrack, and East Side Sushi -- releases first solo album February 19 on iTunes.

CD Release Show in Bay Area March 5 at Awaken Cafe, Oakland 

"The 11 songs on [The Echo Falls] are all acoustic gems, graced with exquisitely subtle instrumentation and Mandel's soft tenor." 
San Francisco Chronicle

The first solo album from Alex Mandel -- singer/songwriter for Pixar's Academy-Award winning BRAVE, and The Echo Falls, and musical director of NPR's Snap Judgment -- releases everywhere February 19.

It's been over 6 years since the release of Alex Mandel's last album, The Echo Falls. What has Mandel been doing? 

In 2010, Mandel played his first show as composer/musical director for NPR's Snap Judgment Live. Nowadays, Snap Judgment sells out shows nationwide, at venues like the Nokia (LA),  the Brooklyn Academy of Music (NYC) (with The Roots' MC, Black Thought), and, this February 26th, the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Snap Judgment reaches 3 million listeners a week, and many of these stories have gone viral on YouTube.  "Alex is a pure musical genius,' says Snap Judgment Host Glynn Washington. "He brings the 'Snap' to Snap Live."

In 2012, Mandel wrote two songs for Pixar's movie Brave (2012). Brave grossed $550 Million worldwide, and went on to win the Academy Award. The Scottish-tinged "Touch the Sky" became a global hit, garnering 20+ million listens on YouTube. The song's singer, Julie Fowlis, makes a guest appearance on the new album ("The Road"), as does Irish fiddle and whistle player, John McCusker, from Mark Knopfler's band ("City and the Bay").

In 2013, Mandel scored and wrote a theme song for a low-budget indie film, East Side Sushi (Anthony Lucero, 2015) which went on to win 15 film festivals, receive a 100% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes, and will be released in April 2016 by Samuel Goldwyn/Sony. (Mandel's acclaimed score is available on iTunes.)

In 2014, Mandel composed a musical about how Norman Rockwell embraced Civil Rights after the sudden death of his wife in his late 60s.  Norman Rockwell's America, aka Painting America, was performed at Theatreworks New Works Festival alongside Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph's latest play. In 2015, Canadian poet Shane Koyczan ("To This Day") asked if he could cover Mandel's song "Turn on a Light" for the opening track of his album, Debris. 

All this time, Mandel wrote, re-wrote, and discarded his own songs.  A far cry from the folk-rock of The Echo Falls, the material ranged from Brave-style Celtic folk-rock ("Way to Go", "The Road"), to modern rock with reggae, West African and electronic elements ("Helping Hand", "Happy"). Two of the songs were expanded versions of songs Mandel wrote for Snap Judgment ("As Long As I Breathe", and "Love Never Ends").  

"One great thing about doing the Snap Judgment gig, is I got to be musically promiscuous," Mandel says. "In Snap, or when I score movies, a certain musical genre might best help tell a story. Some of those disparate sounds made their way into these songs."

"But often I asked, what's the point of releasing an album? There was always something more pressing to do."  

Until the pieces started to fall into place -- a unifying storyline about naiveté, disillusionment, escapism, despair, sexuality, love, and wisdom emerged. A nine week meditation class renewed Mandel's determination to finish the record, and inspired the album's title. Even though sales were in the low thousands, Mandel learned that The Echo Falls had racked up nearly half a million listens on Pandora. Finally, a successful Kickstarter campaign raised enough money to pay for artwork, for mastering and reproduction. The Physical CD features gorgeous album art from Oakland-based artist Jason Munn (The Small Stakes, Treasure Island Musical Festival) and an 18 panel poster with complete lyrics. "I wanted to make an album that takes listeners on a musical and lyrical journey," says Mandel. "As Long As We Breathe" is a 15 song musical journey that will reward repeated listens.