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Vincenzo Torsiello invites you to embrace the chaos

| Monday, August 17, 2020

Liya Blitzer | The Obes

A Notre Dame flag adorned with the state of Arizona’s colors hangs in sophomore Vincenzo Torsiello’s Stanford dorm room. Besides a single electric guitar and a mini-controller synthesizer, the room is decidedly short on instruments.

Back home in Phoenix, Torsiello boasts a much more impressive setup: a full drum set, several microphones, an acoustic piano, electric keyboard, a few guitars, some amps and a bass. The homemade recording studio is where Torsiello produced three singles in the earlier summer months of quarantine. Now Torsiello has his full-length album “Jittersplit” to show for his time spent indoors during a decidedly unusual summer.

“I would just be in that [recording] room for hours on end,” Torsiello said, describing the summer recording process.

Being stuck indoors provided the opportunity and the time for the musician to build on his previous three singles.

“When I finally got back home … I realized creating something was gonna be a very good use of my time both emotionally and mentally to get through the quarantine.” The experience of recording the album also motivated Torsiello to maintain his creative momentum into the future. “It gave me a newfound productivity,” Torsiello said. “My plan is to do [an album] every year. I’m planning on doing one every summer.”

With his debut single “Garbage Boy,” Torsiello established his style as a jazz-punk fusion and coined a wonderful new genre term: “junk.” There is plenty of Torsiello’s signature fast-paced “junk-style” on several of his tracks, but the young artist’s debut album also shows that the Notre Dame sophomore is not afraid to try new things — whether that means incorporating new instruments or exploring a variety of different emotions in a single album or even a single song.

In regards to instrumentation, “Jittersplit” features Torsiello playing the drums, piano, bass, three different guitars and ukulele. Minimal saxophone, flute and guitar was provided by close friends and family. The diversification of sound is one of the album’s — and the artist’s — greatest strengths. A montuno beat on the track “Silver Screens” sets a decidedly contrasting mood from the punk numbers, which are much more different in temperament from the slower, more emotionally somber tracks.

With “Jittersplit,” Torsiello succeeds by defying typical genre conventions, blending a variety of instruments, sounds and influences together in a fantastic collection of songs wholly unique to the album’s creator. “Jittersplit’s” sound, like Torsiello’s brilliantly cracked lyrics, is unpredictable and distinct. “For the Moment,” “Garbage Boy” and “Jacked up Blues” combine energetic rhythms with emotionally charged lyricism, painting a vivid picture of frustration and exhilaration towards impending emotional chaos and turmoil. In regards to the more frantic numbers such as “For the Moment,” Torsiello said, “I wanted it to feel like you’re out in the middle of the ocean and everything is collapsing.”

The range of Torsiello’s album is perhaps its most appealing and distinctive feature. “Jittersplit” doesn’t shy away from exploring pain and loss in a variety of styles. The epic track “The Ballad of Aren and Rosabella” sets itself apart from many of the other album’s songs by leaning into storytelling, as Torsiello tells the despairing tale of lost love and missed opportunity. A remastered version of “Garbage Boy” addresses concerns of self-doubt with Torsiello’s signature “junk” style. “Flying Feet,” on the other hand, takes the listener on a much calmer, dreamlike journey through lasting love and the melancholic power of memory. Even the upbeat track “Around” acknowledges the panic and despair of a world that seems on the verge of crumbling into a chaotic oblivion.

Yet there is optimism and even joy in the pain. On “Around,” the singer admits, “And I guess I got every reason on earth / To be blue / But I just can’t seem to get there / When I think about you / And I guess I got every reason on earth / To be down / But I just can’t seem to get myself to frown / Whenever you’re around.”

When asked about how the album’s distinctive songs fit into a larger theme or overarching meaning, Torsiello emphasized the importance of channeling negative feelings in healthy ways and the emotional connections people share. “We all have depths of intense emotion that we sometimes run from or suppress or think are bad, but they’re not bad. Sometimes we need to embrace those feelings to get through them.”

The album’s opening track “Squalor” makes a reference to this shared emotional connection between people, as Torsiello sings “And maybe we all feel the same / And maybe there’s no reason for all of what I’ll say / But maybe you’ll relate to what I transmit / Thus, as I fester in squalor, sigh, die, sing and spit / You’ll feel it / The jaunty, the jiving / The jittersplit.”

By openly calling attention to and even celebrating the feelings of frustration, isolation and general unrest, “Jittersplit” is able to earn its underlying optimistic outlook. Though things might be falling apart, the album’s tracks inspire a heroic call to action. The listener is ultimately encouraged to bravely face their individual sea of troubles rather than to “fester in squalor.” Despite the ugliness of the world, Torsiello’s “Jittersplit” is an ever-present invitation to appreciate the beauty in life, ourselves and the people we love.

You can listen to Vincenzo Torsiello’s debut album “Jittersplit” on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and most other streaming platforms.

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