I have a buddy named James, who lives and works in NYC. He’s a map seller, a husband and a professional bass player, and he writes these great little alternative rock songs about, well, everything, written from his slightly jaded but sensitive point of view. He has a website where he hosts much of his music, some of which has gotten wider distribution in places like the Rock Band Network and on various indie singles distribution sites.
Lately, I’ve been thinking he needs to put together a ‘greatest hits’ compilation of his most accessible numbers; not just the the ones with the best sound engineering or vocal harmonies or melodic structures. He’s written plenty of angry numbers that would also be a good fit for a compilation album. I’ve got a strong urge to put one together for him, a primer of his music for those who perhaps haven’t heard his music, or perhaps heard one song and decided prematurely that his music isn’t that good. Some bands and songwriters can be fairly easily dismissed on the basis of one or two songs, but James’ music is different in several respects. Hooky but not saccharine. Smart but not elitist. Ballsy but not arrogant. Indie but not cloying.
He’s a clever multi-instrumentalist like Jonathan Coulton, but not nearly as cartoonish and self-parodying. His songs remind me of OK Go, but without the clever videos and Muppet-friendly sensibilities. He hews back to the days of Social Distortion and Sonic Youth, but he doesn’t live in the 80s ad 90s. His varying styles are eclectic, and his subject matter is broad but rooted in the real world. He wears his influences on his sleeve, but he doesn’t hide behind style or try too hard to capture their sounds. He writes what he writes, and put sit out there before he has a chance to think too much about it and polishes all of the edges off of them.
Then tell him I sent you.