Production-wise, you can’t fault Luke Conard. (I’ve CC’d him in to this email – hi Luke!) I was never clear on how much was Luke and how much was Jason, but either way, the production rocks. The way that the radio changes during Shortwave Part 1 and briefly plays a bit of Shortwave Part 2 is AMAZING. I cheered out loud. I love that bit SO MUCH. The album feels so unified from track to track, and it really is an album, not a collection of songs. Alan, you’re great at writing songs that fit together, and this really showcases that. Tom, Ed and I had a post-Erase This conversation once we’d all individually heard the CD, and we all agreed that (especially given how you created it, with so many people in so many different places) you aimed high, and you got where you aimed for. It’s a triumph.
That said – Luke, I think some of your vocals let some of the tracks down. And before I go on, most of this isn’t your fault, you obviously have a good singing voice, it’s not your singing specifically that’s the issue for me … it’s more a Raven issue. I never really liked Winter’s Song because Raven wrote the melody, and then Luke sang to it. It wasn’t designed for your voice, it was designed for a sultry warbly girl voice. I think it would have benefitted hugely if you’d rewritten it to fit your style. The same is true of Making A Scene, which, OH MY GOD, when the album first starts playing, I’m thinking “this is the best thing I’ve ever heard, that song is fantastic”, but then the melody isn’t really your style, and it just takes the edge off it a bit, for me at least. I was fortunate to hear Raven’s fantastic demo of the song back when Alan gave a shit about erasethis.com (lol) and I was so excited to hear what it would be like all finished, but I’d have been happier hearing you make the song fit your voice even if it meant it was significantly different, than trying to adapt to work with what she had already done, as she’s the kind of gal that writes very intimate music to suit her specific individual style.
I also think there can sometimes be a gap in translation between Alan writing the lyrics and Luke singing them. For example, in Boxcar Blood, there’s that great line about skipping school but not skipping cracks in the street; I read that line before I heard it, and the way it was sang was completely different to what I expected. To me, it wasn’t delivered in a way that gave the line the same kind of impact. It’s witty and brilliant, but on the song, because of the way the words are emphasised and structured, it doesn’t come across as well. I have no idea why that might be; maybe Alan’s possessive of his work and wouldn’t let a single syllable be changed, maybe Luke didn’t want to suggest said changes because Alan was the lyrics man and he was the music man. But if I had to guess, I’d just put it down to one of the unfortunate weaknesses of having the band spread so far across the country – and that’s more than made up for by its strengths. Speaking of lyrics, Luke, I don’t think lyrics are one of your best strengths, and on ALL CAPS I think Kristina is the master at lyrical ideas of the two of you, so having Alan write for you here (as he did on Summer Of 09) worked massively in you guys’ favour, I think.
I preferred Tom’s version of The Mirror Song to Luke’s, but I preferred Luke’s version of Forgiven, so in terms of the re-releases, it’s evens on that.
My points to take away from this would be: be proud of this CD. The melodies are strong, the production soars in a way that I haven’t heard from you before – Luke, hearing you work on completely organic instruments and no electronic stuff was something I was massively curious about, and I’m glad Alan made this happen cos it paid off massively. It’s a LOT stronger than Bmin/E, of which I only kept three tracks that I enjoy listening to regularly out of fourteen (in order of preference; Delete You, Summer Of ’09 and Don’t Unplug Me – speaking of which, I would be pushing Delete You a lot more, putting it on the Volume Two comp, hitting it out on the radio hour … it’s amazing). On Erase This, I have five favourites out of ten, and I like those odds; Boxcar Blood, Forgiven, Shortwave Parts 1 and 2 (though I think part 2 is a little slow, hence my uke cover) and All I Am (although Ed did an incredible version of it, but I’m biased towards fangirling over Ed’s voice/songwriting ability). Shortwave Part 1 is my favourite by far, though I would have absolutely ADORED Making A Scene if it wasn’t for the style clash that I mentioned prior; as it is I’m happy listening to Rebecca Brickley’s cover of it instead, as her voice suits the melody a lot more. (On that note – the idea of releasing the whole album again by other artists is something I’d never be bold enough to do, because I’d be terrified that people would like the cover more than they liked my version. It’s a strong move. And it’s a great way for an audience to be exposed to new talent.)
Alan – I’d say in future, maybe working in a ‘director’ type capacity to talk with your producer about how the lines could/should be delivered would be a big benefit for the whole thing.
Luke – always make the songs your own, cos your own is great. Don’t try and fit someone else’s style. I’m so jealous of your falsetto melody in Shortwave Part 1, I could never pull that off, would never even try. It sounds amazing. That said, I think you work better when you’re behind the mic producing someone else (like Kristina, as on Delete You), for the same reason I think Tom produces better music for me then he does for himself; having that objectivity and sense of responsibility helps the creative process. That aside, you did great. Now that you’re getting a lot better at writing melodies (I mean, Don’t Unplug Me, Shortwave Part 1, oh my god) the next thing to do is to be different. Stand out from what’s being played right now. Instead of sounding like current music, strive to sound like what current music wants to be. I don’t know how to achieve that, I’m still in the ‘be different’ phase myself with songwriting. But you’ll benefit hugely if you manage to crack it.
In short: you’re getting nerdy girls into badass music, all independently, and it’s awesome. Onwards and upwards, as always. <3
As far as reviews go, this one is everything an artist could ask for. I’ve been able to take away a sense of pride in what worked, and focus on what didn’t work for my next project. Some people fault Alex for his honesty and (occasional) tactlessness, but I love it.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who’s purchased the album so far, and a bigger thank you to those of you who have reviewed it or emailed me or @replied me about it. I’m glad so many of you are enjoying it.
Also, this is my second post today, if you didn’t read my entry from earlier today, called “On Giving“, I really hope you do, and offer support however you can. Thanks.