Bought by James for Jonty
At 15, Sister Hazel were perhaps my greatest obsession. A subtle folk-rock band blessed with the limited imagination required to throw extended instrumental interludes into otherwise singer-songwriter style pop-rock songs, they sat alongside ska punk act Less Than Jake as two reasons to believe Gainesville, Florida – a place I knew nothing about – was something of a musical Mecca. I stumbled across the five-piece through ’10 Things I hate About You’, a teenage romcom claiming some high-brow references in Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, where the track Your Winter plays over one of the key scenes. … Somewhere More Familiar arrived three years earlier than Fortress, the album featuring that particular ditty, and never quite matched it, but does offer a decent sample of what the act are all about.
In truth, I’m not sure how good the album actually is. Having formed a teenage attachment, it’s hard to separate its summery melodies from my earliest festivals, dipping my feet in the dating world and blasting things in bad cars during my final school years. The band still hold the dubious honor of being the only act on that movie soundtrack I’ve never experienced live. If I try to be a touch objective, listening now they remind me of Counting Crows and The Goo Goo Dolls. I can imagine the vocals becoming grating. The jazzy licks aren’t quite as sharp or interesting as they seemed at the time, and tracks like Superman are definitely rubbish. Then again, much of the pop-rock scene that dominated the musical horizons of the start of the century sounds dated now. I’m not even sure I like the vocals, but on balance I still love the album.
Sentimentality can go a long way, and my first dabbling in 1p Album Club fits in to just that category: this isn’t an album that many of my current social circles have likely ever heard. Is it actually an unheralded gem of the pop rock world, or has it dated worse than I did when I listened to it? Over to you, Jonty… (I’ll be better to you next time!)
I should explain one detail – I’m deaf (hence my twitter tag of @deafjonty) but can hear music with some degree of accuracy. Oddly, I can only hear bass sounds in one ear and high in the other so there are gaps in my hearing. It meant that listening to this album on an iPod took me a heck of a long time to get to grips with the music.
I found it initially rather one-dimensional. Talented musicians playing quite intricate rhythms and melodies (on an iPod, this album is very messy-sounding). However, as time went by and after playing it through speakers, it’s sorta won me over. It’s an interesting album – it’s in the vein of classic US acoustic rock with a distinctly country feel. It never quite teeters into country music but skirts it. There’s a weird multiple time thing going on – I got the impression that one part of the band were playing a different song to the others, which if memory serves me right was a bit of a common thing in the latter parts of the last decade of the century.
It’s quite hard writing about an album that, as James says, is part of his own personal mythology. I think I’ve heard this at the wrong time in my life – I’m not as receptive to its themes as I might have when younger (and judging by James’ age at the time he discovered this album, I’m a lot older!). There’s something about US bands that turned up in the latter part of the 90s which I find bit disconcerting. They’re so desperately trying not to ape grunge that they veer off into other musical territories which don’t quite work.
Having said that, there are some songs which I’ll keep listening to: Cerilene’s a lovely wistful song about a passion for a girl and the desire to keep her in your life; All For You is a great little song about wondering why you like someone when you’re not sure how that is.
In summary, an interesting first choice from James. A little less musicality (if you get what I mean) and it would have been a very good (rather than merely good) first choice