Tuesday, December 2, 2008

MOW: Jeremy Messersmith

I've decided to add a new feature to my blog. Inspired by the many music friend-requests I get on Myspace on a regular basis, I thought it would be interesting, and quite fun to start doing a "Music of the Week" review-type thingy here. Plus, it'll help me practice my critiquing skills.

I haven't imposed any rules on this yet, except for that all the bands/singers/songwriters that I'll talk about will be bands that I've never heard of prior to the add requests I get, or if I just come across an act via word of mouth or whatever. The point is, it'll always be about my first-ish impressions... And I'll probably never talk about a band that I don't like, at least in some minute sort of way.

So, to start this off...

Music of the Week: Jeremy Messersmith

From: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Label: Princess Records
Genre: Indie

Compared to other requests I've gotten in the past, this was definitely an easy add to make. As soon as "Franklin Avenue" started playing through my computer speakers, I was immediately drawn in by Jeremy's voice, which contained a very calming quality, reminiscent of a cross between Elliott Smith and Sean Lennon. Craftwise, the song was exactly the kind I tend to fall for: steady acoustic strumming, lyrics that only rhyme sometimes, snare-heavy drumming, and the perfect addition of a tambourine.

So because that was the first song to come on, which I think was a fantastic placement decision by the artist, I was interested enough to listen to the rest of the songs on his page. And then, I was impressed enough to check emusic to see if I could download the new album legally. And I could... so here are my track-by-track responses (in real time as I listen...

Album: The Silver City
Release date: Sept. 9, 2008

1. The Silver City 0:38
Clearly, this is just an album introduction. It's a sound track of someone at the "Franklin Avenue Station." Maybe he's in a train station? He's either about to go somewhere or just about to leave. Ooooh... what happens next?

2. Welcome to Suburbia 3:03
Very cute, welcoming song. I guess this answers my questions to the first track. He sings sweetly... and this kind of reminds me of home.
"Lay down your burden/rest your weary eyes/no room for sorrow/leave all your weariness behind."
Okay, this is a little cheesy now, and I don't think the horns section toward the end of the song was really necessary. Definitely not the most powerful track on the album, but yeah, it's cute, to say the least.

3. Dead End Job 3:57
I'm starting to sense a theme here. Instrumentally and with the harmonized "da das", the beginning sounds like a Shins song. Sounds like he's going home to a girl... and maybe blaming her for having to work a dead end job? But he doesn't sound too sad about it.
The diary lyrics aren't bad, although he comes nowhere near to Ben Gibbard. Ahhh... the horns work well in this song, I think. Ooh, there's drama unfolding lyrically, quintessential boy loves girl, but girl loves another boy. This song is indielicious.

4. Franklin Avenue 3:25
Yeah, I still really like this song the second time around. My initial thoughts of Elliott Smith and Sean Lennon still hold, and it's got some very nice string segments. So far, this song is a little faster than the last two - but I enjoy the pace. I also have a thing for location-specific songs... emotions and places... so great. Good placement within the album.

5. The Commuter 3:22
Gotta love the acoustic guitar and piano combination. There's just enough piano to add to the song without overpowering it. Oooh... again, another Shins-influence is coming out here, with that echo guitar-effect.
"Spend my evenings lying on this couch/counting all the cracks in this old house." I love that.. the lyrics are giving me a great mental picture, and offer a nice metaphor for a broken heart. Groovy-sad.

6. Miracles 3:42
This is different. There's something electronic going on here... simplistic sounding synthesizer effect. I read on his myspace page that he's got a casio. This must be it...
"Do you believe in miracles? Because this is all we get... breathing you out/breathing you in." The words are a little too cliche for my taste. And instrumentally, it kind of reminds me of a song you'd hear in the background of a cruising video game, like Wave Race or Snowboard Kids. But without thinking about it too much, I can definitely like this song. Surficially nice..

7. Love You To Pieces 3:55
Slow, crunching guitar intro makes me think this is gonna' be the heartbreak ballad of the album. Let's see if I'm right...
Oooh, nice use of the word "capture." He's reminiscing about better times... the quintessential stuff that sad songs are made of. I'm enjoying the melody so far, I like it when men sing in vibrato (if it's done right). "I wanna' love you 'til you burst..." that's heavy. Slightly creepy, but I like it.

8. Breaking Down 3:49
Back to the acoustic guitar, with the typical indie-folk strumming style.
This song has a really sweet, intimate story. It's always the imperfect things that make for good metaphors about love... a car that keeps breaking down in this case. It's got a country-ish mood to it, but not in a bad way. Folky fun... This is making me think of Iron & Wine, but not as heavy.

9. Skyway 2:11
There's something very nostalgic about this song. Maybe it's the short violin segments over the acoustic guitar, or the lyrics about meeting "under the skyway." Ahh, nice piano solo. Cute again... a little too much rhyming, and maybe the melody gets a little predictable, but the song is short enough that it's not annoying.

10. Virginia 3:28
Yay, here comes the casio again. The melody is kind of like a Belle & Sebastian song, but again, I really enjoy location-specific songs.
"But for now I spend my mornings making clouds in my coffee cup/wishing that I was there to wake you up." That's so cute, I could puke. This song should be on the Elizabethtown soundtrack. There's a very good indie instrumental breakdown... I like the simplicity of this song a lot. It's probably going to move up into regular rotation in my iPod. Definitely one of the better ones on the album...

11. Light Rail 3:22
I love it already.. how could you go wrong with the right "woh-oh." Ooooh... fantastic bass line. This is a perfect song to end the album on. It's upbeat, with a driving bass line, lots of snare and a ringy guitar sound. I'm thinking of "Obla-di-Obla-da," but not as cartoony. I take it back, maybe this is the song that's gonna' make regular rotation.
Oh yeah, there's the piano that I love.... Oh man, listen to this song.
Aha! And it ends at the Franklin Avenue station... fantastic closing...

Okay, it's over. So to keep the integrity of this review, I'm not going to go back and read it before I save it. Besides, I'm not really expecting anyone to read it. This was a cutesy-fun album and I'm glad I used some of my emusic downloads to get it. All-in-all, a good semi-purchase.


jeremy said...

This is probably the best review I've ever gotten. As someone making records you never ever get to hear first impressions, so this post is invaluable.

It's funny, I think all the criticisms (I mean that in a good way) are all the same ones that I had!

Anyway, I'm glad you liked it and thanks for being honest. Hopefully you'll like my next record even more. :)

jeremy said...

P.S.- Skyway is actually a cover. I've always been a little puzzled by all the rhyming, but the song just kills me.