Among all the innumerable people that have graced the San Diego scene with their music in recent years, Inspired & the Sleep‘s Max Greenhalgh is among my favorite individual creatives.
Possessing an all-encompassing sonic vision and a unique gift for songcraft, the tunes he writes for his outfit Inspired & the Sleep never fail to set my imagination alight, something I cannot say for the vast majority of local bands. Their consistent and varied creative output since coming onto the scene in the early 2010s has been inspirational, to say the least, and fittingly, the band has relocated to Los Angeles in hopes of being exposed to the wider audience that they deserve.
Greenhalgh’s aural daydreams under the Inspired moniker have taken on new life in these brand-new solo renditions of 2018 single “First Time” and “In My Labyrinth Mind” from 2015’s Eyelid Kid EP. His style, usually replete with colorful instrumental detail, is broken down to its simplest elements here, showcasing the kind of versatility only reserved for the most gifted artists around.
“First Time” shows off Greenhalgh’s formidable piano skills along with his penchant for moving lyrics and wistful melodies, a true reflection of his gradual development from sonic auteur to consummate songwriter (not an easy one, I might add).
“In My Labyrinth Mind” sees the song’s insistent, bright melodies and undulating chord progression transformed into a tasteful piece of psychedelic pop balladry, with Greenhalgh’s flawless vocal delivery imbuing the song with a refreshing sense of vulnerability and openness. The producer’s practiced skills of arrangement and vocal control are on full display here, synthesized in a way that is moving, meditative, and catchy all at once.
The newly-treated songs caress the ears in a manner that is unhurried and confident, showcasing the contemplative and idiosyncratic influences that the singer has drawn on since Inspired’s inception. The simple arrangements he favors are nothing fancy, but still leave enough open air for the listener to freely associate and draw their own conclusions, something I love about their recorded output as well as their live shows, which are a total blast to attend. (Speaking from experience!!)
This ability to mix and change styles on a dime has been in the making for some time. In Greenhalgh’s words, “This year I started playing solo quite a bit more doing winery tours up the coast and other gigs that the band couldn’t make it out to. Naturally, I thought it would be fun to put together some versions of our songs that are stripped down to just piano and vocals.” Here’s hoping this carefree spirit carries through to many more new releases for the band, which has become one of my favorites to have originated in the San Diego scene.
Be sure to catch Inspired & the Sleep tomorrow night when they headline the Belly Up! Find tickets here: https://www.facebook.com/events/777631312607580/
Preview By: Dennis Moon
Photo Courtesy of Christine Heyne