Husband and wife duo New Middle Class have been making music together in NYC and its suburbs since the late ’70s. Comprised of Barbara Borok (lead vocals) and Mike Borok (guitar, vocals), the pair have an impressive array of accomplishments under their belt, including winning the Grand Prize at the Music To Life song contest at the Kerrville Folk Festival, being nominated as a finalist in the South Florida Folk Festival Songwriting Contest, performances at the Northeastern and Southwestern Folk Alliance conferences, and airplay on over 50 radio stations worldwide.
With a resume like this, the bar is set high for any new music coming from this exceedingly established duo. But any expectations are far surpassed on their latest album House of Love. This thirteen-track album is an engaging collection of thoughtful tracks that serve to delight, entertain, and inspire.
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
Lazy Me is an excellent introduction to the lyrically focused, musically thoughtful sound of New Middle Class right from the start. The opening lyrics give us a digestible sampling of the kind of lighthearted yet uncompromising attitude that permeates much of the album’s writing:
“When I grow up I want to be a child
Don’t want to work, I just want to play
Carefree as a juvenile
Useless, and happy to be that way”
Set to a rhythm that brings the likes of Linda Ronstadt’s rendition of Poor Poor Pitiful Me to mind, the track is a touch country in execution, but light production overall with a heavy focus on the vocals and the story at hand. It’s a warm and intriguing welcome to the rest of the project.
We learn quickly that this duo is not a one-trick pony sonically, as is the unfortunate truth for many others in the songwriting world. It Ain’t What It Ain’t brings an unexpected pop-leaning, modern-soft-rock-tinged element to the mix, amplified by unexpected harmonies and tight, melodic riffs. The guitar solo is a welcome textural addition, and the commentary on treading carefully while speaking truthfully in today’s society is a thought-provoking exercise that shows off a slightly more somber writing ability.
Anyone who fancies themselves a songwriter will no doubt find that Living in Songland resonates. The art of composing and creating music can become entirely immersive, and this upbeat, sing-song style track gives us (the songwriters, anyways) a happy ending as the artist who sacrificed relationships for his work becomes successful and recognized. It’s a feel-good moment for the musicians in the audience through the eyes of a nay-sayer – and it is gratifying indeed.
Ten Rooms in the House Of Love is a definitive highlight of the album, a beautiful and sweeping metaphor that feels truly original – which is a rarity and a gem to find. The rich harmonies here lend an almost gospel feel at times, with an impressively powerful vocal performance from Barbara to tie it together. It’s a hearty dose of pessimism with moments of hopefulness sprinkled in for good measure, resulting in something that feels as real as it does relatable:
“For those ten rooms in the House of Love
What was the architect thinking of
When he built these twisting stairs and dead-end halls
Broken doors and paper-thin walls?”
We also love the album closer Another Life for its attention-grabbing use of juxtaposition of a tragic theme against light, loose Americana instrumentation. Surrendering as far as the fate of the world & our environment is concerned, one would undoubtedly expect an arrangement that reflects the despair that the lyrics so clearly bring to the forefront, proclaiming, “We drive so fast, ignoring the danger signs / All good things come undone again, in time.” But this is accompanied by warm harmonies and a swinging, jazzy feel, holding the listener’s attention all the way through.
OUR FAVORITE TRACK…
Mike describes If I Ever as “a simple, emotional song”, but that’s understating the effectiveness of this track about tenfold. There’s a very particular art in capturing that “conversational” feeling that some of the past century’s best songwriters in this genre seem to have – think The Gambler or Time in a Bottle. On this track, Mike has grabbed a piece of that for himself. It’s so believable – from the word choice to the delivery, it just radiates authenticity, sincerity, and a wonderfully consumable down-to-earth feeling that makes this track feel like it’s being sung directly to you:
“If I ever get another job
I will show up every day
Put my back into the work
I won’t spend all my pay
And if there’s anything left over
I will give it all to you
That’s what I will do
If I ever get another job”
A wonderful, captivating blend of insight and wisdom, the work of New Middle Class is endearing and pensive, and all without taking themselves too seriously. Their decades of combined experience are on clear display here – this duo knows how to write a song with a level of precision and skill that is only seen from players who have spent decades refining their craft to the point of brilliance. Their perspective is refreshing, their writing is original, and their material, on the whole, is some of the finest songwriting we’ve been fortunate enough to come across in recent years. Anyone with even a remote appreciation for finely-crafted songs from experienced musicians will find an unending number of things to enjoy about House of Love.
BELOW: Check out our full artist interview with New Middle Class, listen to their album House of Love and connect with their website and social media platforms, check out their live show/tour schedule, and find their booking & contact information. Please support New Middle Class by visiting them online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing their music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
(Want to have your music reviewed on The Ark of Music? Click HERE.)
Check out our interview with NEW MIDDLE CLASS:
INTERVIEW: New Middle Class (Click HERE)
Follow, stream, download & connect with NEW MIDDLE CLASS online:
Listen to HOUSE OF LOVE by NEW MIDDLE CLASS:
Watch the music video for QUARK by NEW MIDDLE CLASS:
Check out NEW MIDDLE CLASS’s live show/tour schedule:
Booking & contact information for NEW MIDDLE CLASS:
Contact: Mike Borok