The ukulele resurgence continues with A Convenient Place, the third EP from Álvaro Menéndez and his first for Flaming Pines. We keep hoping for an album, but in the meantime, these breezy concoctions will have to do. If anything, the works of this Valencia-based artist are growing shorter; seven tracks in eleven minutes might be something of a record. While the best tracks could easily fill 3-4 minutes, the longest is only 2:08, and is amazingly his longest work to date. At 1:09, “Quiet Stars” is his second-shortest. Strangely, “Museum Pond” (1:14) ends in a fade; surely it could have gone on a bit longer? But life’s joyful moments of joy are fleeting, and so are these songs.
A Fighting Lion provides soundtracks to “long warm summers (of) fireworks and sunsets”. One can imagine the troubadour at the end of a long pier, large dog in tow, playing these songs to spectators who have gathered to watch surfers as they catch the day’s final waves. Happiness is apparent. Instead of the typical strum, the artist prefers to pluck, removing some of the instrument’s tweeness. While the ukulele will never be mistaken for an acoustic guitar, on this EP it comes close.
The strongest tracks include flurries of additional instrumentation. “Winter Garden”s strings and glockenspiel make it an easy highlight. The click-and-clack of “Passing Clouds” provides a rush of pleasure, and the 7-second breakdown (00:50-00:57) is a sweet diversion. “Night Owls” (the long one) stops, slows tempo midway and adds glockenspiel (1:04), then synth (1:43) and bass (1:44), but ends only seconds later. Such restraint is simultaneously admirable and maddening. We want more! Fortunately we’re still able to say that we like what we hear; this 11-minute EP contains more entertaining moments than many albums seven times its length. (Richard Allen)