Features
Reviews
Must Hear Music
Reviews Archives
Archives
Bargain Basement
Downloads
Music DVD
Upstart
Pipsqueaks
 
 
 
Features
Reviews
Archives
Send Us Mail
Contact Us
 
 

Now It's Overhead
Now It's Overhead
Saddle Creek


Now Itís Overhead is a succinct three-word sentence, but it raises one very important question: What is "It"? The sky, certainly, and its clouds and sun and birds and stars, but also storm clouds, thunder, unseen pollutants, and the ineffable enormity of the universe. And not only are all of these above our heads, but theyíre also overhead, costs we are compelled to pay in exchange for our rich lives. Put it all together and thatís "It". And now "Itís" overhead.

And "It" is the world of Andy LeMaster, the songwriting heart and principal creative force behind Athens, Georgiaís Now Itís Overhead. The debut release from this band covers a range of sonic and psychological territory with simple songs that are often cyclical, but never redundant. Much of the record has a twisted Americana feel, like late-period Violent Femmes or Camper Van Beethoven without the goofiness. Or maybe itís the Waterboys. Thereís also a gothic edge to NIOís music that sometimes reminds one of Twitch-era Ministry, but with the slightly jangly feel of the Psychedelic Furs. LeMasterís lyrics are rich with the imagery and emotion that weíve come to expect from other Saddle Creek bands, such as Bright Eyes, Cursive, and Son, Ambulance.

Now Itís Overhead is the first band released by Omahaís Saddle Creek label that is not native to Nebraska. While all band members come from the 80s alt-rock mecca of Athens, LeMaster has strong ties to Omahaís indie king (and Saddle Creek cornerstone), Conor Oberst. In fact, LeMaster has appeared on almost every record and tour by Oberstís primary project, Bright Eyes, performing guitar, bass, percussion, keyboard, vocal, and engineering duties.

As Bright Eyes is to Oberst, so it seems is Now Itís Overhead to LeMaster. While there are fantastic contributions from Azure Ray members Orenda Fisk (bass, keys, trumpets, vocals) and Maria Taylor (keys and vocals), as well as from LeMasterís childhood friend, Clay Leverett (drums and vocals), it is clear that NIO and its creative output are primarily the progeny of LeMaster himself, who engineered and produced, wrote all the songs, played most of the instruments, and created all of the package art for the record. The record was recorded at Chase Park Transduction, an Athens studio owned and operated by LeMaster, longtime Bob Mould collaborator David Barbe, and Glands bassist Andy Baker, both of whom are credited with "sound advice" in the liner notes.

Aside from vague comparisons, real similarities between NIO and other Saddle Creek bands (or any other bands) are hard to find. All the adjectives in the clips and blurbs in the press kit seem to miss the mark. Perhaps because the record covers so much ground, the music of Now Itís Overhead is difficult to characterize. The prevailing atmosphere of the album is gloomy and foreboding, but there are also many bright and hopeful moments. "Blackout Curtain", the albumís elegiac opener, is a song of innocence and experience that seems ambivalent about both. One of the more accessible tunes on the record, "Hi" is anchored by that emasculated-but-infectious hip-hop beat that lolled behind so many Mancunian singles of the early 90s. The vocals have a quality that is reminiscent of early Blur. The haunting "With A Subtle Look" builds from a barren, reverb-drenched voice-and-percussion landscape to a soaring climax without ever rising much above a whisper. "Wonderful Scar" is a sweet 50s ballad that was involved in a horrible accident, turning it into a slightly sinister Congo Norvell dirge. The unbelievably hummable "Goodbye Highway" is a beautifully wistful tune, barely heard over the clank of glasses and spoons as the coffeehouse closes. If thereís a candidate for "single" on this record, itís "Hold Your Spin", with its inscrutable chorus: Were you born sideways? Did you learn to rotate and hold your spin? Its bop-bop backing vocals and spry rhythmic feel make this song an enjoyable--if enigmatic--singalong.

Despite the seemingly overwhelming breadth and ambition of Now Itís Overhead (the band and the record), the music is surprisingly sweet and completely unforgettable. The repetitive structure of the tunes and LeMasterís exceptional ear for melody conspire to lodge these songs of strength and weakness, hope and heartbreak in the listenerís head. Happily, the experience is nothing like having, for example, "Donít Worry Be Happy" or the hook from "Tomís Diner" stuck in your head. Musing on one of LeMasterís songs that has fixed itself in your brain is a bittersweet, melancholy, and strangely comforting experience, like remembering the almost-forgotten voice of a loved one or the name of a playground friend you hadnít thought of in years. Itís complex and beautiful, and Now Itís Overhead.

— Eryc Eyl

Track Listing:

  1. Blackout Curtain
  2. Whoís Jon
  3. Hi
  4. Hold Your Spin
  5. 6th Grade Roller
  6. Wonderful Scar
  7. With A Subtle Look
  8. Goodbye Highway
  9. A Skeleton On Display

Talk Back
post in the webboard
e-mail the chief

Like this article?
e-mail it to a friend!

 


Mike Doughty



none now
-------


South By Southwest 2014
David DeVoe

South By Southwest 2013
David DeVoe

Red Hook Music Festival
George Dow

SXSW 2012
David DeVoe

Our Favorite Records 2011
Hybrid Staff

AWOLNation
Rachel Fredrickson

Kanrocksas
Rachel Fredrickson

Warped Tour 2011
Rachel Fredrickson

Eddie Spaghetti
Melissa Skrbic-Huss

Murder By Death
Mike DeLeo


Mike Doughty
Boulder, CO

Epilogues
Denver, CO

Imagine Dragons
Denver, CO

Sebadoh
Cambridge, MA

Young Magic
Denver, CO

Warped Tour 2012
Denver, CO

Thrice
Denver, CO

Mike Doughty
Denver, CO

MuteMath
Kansas City, MO

Other Lives
Lawrence, KS

Los Campesinos
Boston, MA

The Civil Wars
Lawrence, KS

Ha Ha Tonka
Lawrence, KS

Thrice
Lawrence, KS


 
hybridmagazine.com is updated daily except when it isn't.
New film reviews are posted every week like faulty clockwork.
Wanna write for hybrid? Send us an e-mail.
© 1996-2009 [noun] digital media. All rights reserved worldwide. All content on hybridmagazine.com and levelheadedmusic.com is the intellectual property of Hybrid Magazine and its respective creators. No part of hybridmagazine.com or levelheadedmusic.com may be reproduced in any format without expressed written permission. For complete masthead and physical mailing address, Click Here.