Song of the day: Sweet Diss and the Comebacks – "Twenty-Something"

March 31, 2012

I’m afraid that today’s post is going to be another horrendously long one about an album. I’d hesitate to call it a “review” (in fact, I wouldn’t at all) – how about I just call it Disjointed Musings? I’ll even give it an official-sounding acronym: DM™. You can sidestep today’s DM™ quite easily. Feel free to go straight to the media player and ignore all the text. (Believe me, if you skip the text you won’t be missing much.)

However, if you’re keen enough and have oodles of spare time then be my guest…

A charming young man by the name of Nathan (Hi, Nathan!) contacted me and told me a tale – a tale of mystery, of regret, of nefarious goings-on, of damsels in distress, of loves won and lost, of… Nope. None of that. I don’t know why I made up all that nonsense. Nathan just sent me an ordinary email, and simply asked me to listen to his band’s album.

Now let’s get to the details.

Nathan is one of those one-guy wunderkinder musicians who sits at home (or maybe other people’s homes, or maybe he has enough money to go to a real-live, proper, expensive recording studio) and records everything himself. He’s recorded an album called Emerald City Love Song. Although it’s credited to a band called Sweet Diss and the Comebacks, and there is apparently a proper band, this album is just Nathan singing and playing everything (with one exception). Emerald City Love Song is a concept album, and the story is about a chap who goes batty over a girl, told from the chap’s point of view. This happens over the course of 13 songs (with a sort of “coda” or “epilogue” track tacked on at the end). It’s set in Seattle which, I guess, is the “Emerald City” referred to in the title. Not being American, and knowing very little about Seattle (grunge and rain is about it) I have no idea if Seattle is, or has ever been, known as an “Emerald City”. Anyway, it’s a 45-minute love story.

That’s the details out of the way. (I think that’s everything you need to know: 1. Nathan plays and sings everything; 2. It’s a concept album called Emerald City Love Song; 3. The concept is boy-meets-girl. Yep. That’s everything.)

Although in this post I’ll be doing pretty much what I did with the last album I pestered (i.e., offering pointless comments to each song), I’ll try not to make this a regular thing. I’m sure you have better things to do with your time than read what I think of every song on an album. You’d probably prefer a summary – something like An Album Review In Twenty-Five Words Or Less.

I tell you what: I’ll do both. I can offer a summary followed by me rambling on about each song, and depending on how much time (and interest) you have you can read whatever you want to read. (You can even read a different blog if you want. I don’t mind.)

Summary

Emerald City Love Song is a varied album. It isn’t just 45 minutes of chug-chug-chug-chugging guitars and crashing drums. I’d say that vocally this is superb. The vocals sound magnificent, well thought out, and wonderfully elaborate. However, the rest of it (i.e., the instrumental backing) to me sounds underproduced – not a lot, but just enough for me to want all the musical instruments to sound richer or fuller to match those ornate vocals. In other words, I think that quality-wise, the instruments don’t match the vocals. By the way, I just want to quickly mention the album cover (see above). I don’t like it much. For the music contained within, I think the black-and-white photo is a bit glum. I usually love black-and-white photography (so evocative!), but a picture of a bearded hipster smothering a woman’s face with his beard isn’t my idea of a great advertisement for this album.

And now to the songs. I’ll try to make these comments as brief as possible. (You’ve already spent enough time reading this post.)

The Album

Track 1. “Twenty-Something”
I’m afraid that I might be making comparisons throughout this album – but I’m pleased to say that all the comparisons will be of artists I like a lot. I’ll start with this: Jellyfish!

Track 2. “Never Stop Wooing You”
A nice jangly pop song that reminds me of Justin Kline. Later on in the song it also reminds me of Silver Sun. One thing that’s prompting these comparisons is Nathan’s voice (a light tenor, and with an ever-so-slight sibilance). To me, it sounds a lot like Justin Kline and Silver Sun’s James Broad, two chaps with a light tenor and slight sibilance.

Track 3. “Maybe Someday”
A jaunty little number. With extremely pleasant vocal harmonies. Very nice. Although I don’t think there are enough of the vocal harmonies in this song, as they appear only once in a while. (Insert emoticon of a sad face here.) Speaking of Silver Sun, the distorted guitars and vocal harmonies in “Maybe Someday” remind me very much of that British band I keep mentioning.

Track 4. “Hey Indie Girl”
This one reminds me of Silver Sun as well. As far as I’m concerned, being reminded of Silver Sun is A Very Good Thing Indeed. I’m paying attention to the lyrics (which is very rare for me), and they’re witty. (Note to all musicians: More wit in songs please.)

Track 5. “You Make My Day”
Nice. (That was a compliment.) Er, I can’t really think of anything else to say about this song. It’s nice. Oh, I thought of something: When Nathan sings “you make my day go by so, so fast” (from 2:28 to 2:32), his falsetto phrasing is exquisite, especially the first “so…” which falls beautifully, landing on a pillow of clouds. (Note to self: Did I just type something about a pillow of clouds?) And I’ve thought of something else, but it’s unbelievably minor: I didn’t like how the electric guitar played the low A note from 3:09 to 3:12. The string is being bent a little too much and the note goes too sharp for my liking. (Well, I did say it’s unbelievably minor.)

Track 6. “Dear Small Town”
A zippy little number. Of all the songs on the album, this one reminds me most of Silver Sun. All it needs is a lot more guitars and I reckon it’d pass for a Silver Sun song with no problem whatsoever.

Track 7. “Cherry Park”
A Fifties number. Cute. The rhythm of this (i.e., a light shuffle in 12/8) reminds me of Paul Steel’s “I Will Make You Disappear“. This is also A Very Good Thing Indeed.

Track 8. “KMK”
And now it’s a sunny, sunny Sunshine pop song. Yep, this is a varied album. (Sidenote: I’m relieved that the middle initial of this song’s title is “M”.)

Tracks 9-13. “Seattle’s Best”
This seems to be a five-part suite called “Seattle’s Best” (I got a bit of a clue when I saw five songs that started with “Seattle’s Best”).
I. “Spring In My Heart” starts off all ballady and whimsical.
II. “Subliminal Girls” is an acoustic strum-a-long pop song.
III. “Peachs & Pears” reminds me of Justin Kline’s “Coffee Song“, which is incredibly apt because Nathan is singing about a girl in a coffee shop. Believe it or not. Actually, the more I listen to this album, the more the whole thing reminds me of Justin Kline.
IV. “My Barista” builds to an extremely pleasing-to-the-ears anthem.
V. “Color Of Love” is the culmination of the story. (I was going to say “climax” but that would almost certainly lead to a lot of misinterpretation.) It’s here that Nathan lets two other musicians appear on the album (the singers Eric Warncke and Audrey Kauch, playing the boy and girl of the love story). Unfortunately for me, it’s set to a synthesized techno-pop beat. I guess it’s supposed to be illustrative – i.e., it lets the listener know that the boy telling the story had his own music, and now that we’ve met the female love interest we’re finding out that she likes synthesized techno-pop – but it doesn’t do much for me.

Track 14. “Nobody But She”
This song is made to sound as if Nathan is sitting in his bedroom idly playing a nylon-string acoustic guitar. I suppose it’s supposed to sound ramshackle and low-fi, but as a track to finish off the album it didn’t appeal to me. Ah well.

The Absolute, This-Is-It, Final, I’m-Not-Typing-Any-More Conclusion

To summarise even more than I did near the Summary the top of this post – thereby making all of the text up until this point completely redundant, I’m going to say this:

Emerald City Love Story sounds like a combination of Justin Kline and Silver Sun, and you might like it.”

That’s what I should have said at the beginning.

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