Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Weather at Fruit Hill

New Sincerity Drops The Pretense

44, the excellent new album by the guys and gal in New Sincerity Works, has had it's share of glowing reviews and accolades. A look-no-hands-barred open letter documenting a raft of heartbreak and written big as a billboard, 44 shoves songwriter Mike Tittel out from behind the kit for the first time in a long time.

I won't drag you through a full review – because I don't know how to write one – and because you'd do better to own it and judge for yourself. If you live in Southern Ohio, it's already required listening or been duly banned by your local municipality anyhow.

Here's the true low-down on three important tunes:

1. "I'm Not The Problem" is as good as any problem-based song I've ever run into and that includes a fairly heavy emotional connection to Jackson Browne's "My Problem is You" as well as The Replacement's "My Little Problem," which I've witnessed performed live as a duet between Paul Westerberg and Dan Baird.
That's how good.

2. "As If We Are 24" features lyrics intricate enough I'm still somewhat afraid to unpack it fully. The second guitar on the chorus doesn't sound like Keith Richards, it sounds like Ron Wood.

3. "Less Me, Less You" – the sleeper – drops us in a room filled with "shiny pants" (favorite line: "hey, best friend with the hillbilly dance") but reminds us how easy it is to plug the pinholes of our lives with criticism of others. It's not me, it's you. Wait, I mean it's me, not you.

Mike Tittel, the engineer behind this entire episode, lives on Fruit Hill and spent the first part of his career as a photographer, so you'd not be surprised to learn that the graphic elements shine on the packaging, too. The cover sings. It's the San Francisco you should know, not the one you do. And, the typography sings, as well, though certainly the two 4s should face away from each other. If you buy the record, Tittel promises to lob other visual elements at you via text message.

And he delivers.

In the band's promo poster below, half of the message is absolutely plain to see: The bass player looks like a keyboard player. The drummer insists on wearing a hat indoors. One guitar player won't put down his soda, the other won't tell us what's so funny. Tittel can't even look you in the eye.

The the other half ain't so obvious, though, leaving the curious wanna-be fan with more uncomfortable questions than not. Who is this group? Are they knowable? Do I want to know them? Are the broken aparts alone ever greater than a sadly tethered sum? Can they put down their Kinks covers long enough to make another record?

We'll find out well before 55 if the weather at Fruit Hill holds.

Cue the handclaps right after O'Callaghan's solo. If you haven't heard this album yet, go hear it. Or, go watch the video about the making of the record. Or, go find fifteen songs you never knew you had in you.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother, founder of 3VERB, and occasional musician.

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