Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scott Bishop - New Lights (2009)

Full disclosure to start: Scott Bishop is one of my best friends, and I've heard many of these songs in one form or another over the last ten years. So I'm going to be as objective as possible in this review. Of course, he didn't bother to thank ME, just that ridiculous alter-ego that he always ends up with at The Field or Bison County. Bastard.

Scott and I first met about 10 years ago at a porno theater in Portland, Maine. Okay, so it was a converted porno theater (only in the previous few weeks... it was pretty disgusting, actually) the owners were trying to turn into a music venue, and he was playing on a bill with Baby Ray and Ross Phasor. When I look back on it, that was also the first time I met
Sean Hennessey, Ken Lafler, Paul Hilcoff, and Eric Groat as well, which actually is pretty epic considering the amount of time/shows/trips/basketball that resulted. Well, Scott was on fire that night, and I can honestly say I was first a fan and later a friend. Before getting back to Boston, I got both Scott's original demo tape (Detour on the Way to Being Human), and his Slippy Keane demo tape, and I was sold.

So as the years have moved along, Scott has gone solo, into Aura Phase, then back solo. I kept listening to his demo tapes and encouraging him to release something. And thus we come to New Lights. (Yes, I just condensed approximately ten years into three sentences.)

Objectively, I am happy to say that this album is excellent. Great pop songs, smart lyrics, and happiness, sadness, and angst. Quiet and loud, it offers a little for all and plenty for most. And it's got singles: "Dinner 1," "Number 16," and one of the best songs you've never heard, "Kitten's Got Curves."

If I was going to criticize something here, it would have to be the track order. The album works, but in this order it plays better:
  1. DC -- very versatile, nice vocals, previews acoustic and electric for the album
  2. Dinner 1
  3. Cable Knit
  4. Kitten's Got Curves -- 'nuff said
  5. Dinner 2 -- after the high of Kitten, this works very nicely and wraps up the narrative of D1/D2
  6. Sky Blue and Black -- to this point, tonally, 1 & 4 are "upbeat", 3 & 5 are "downers", and 2 is "neutral-upbeat"; so a "lighter" works nicely right here
  7. New Lights -- keeping the balance, we go softer again
  8. #16 -- needs some space from "Kitten" and really punches up the energy here; the anchor for the back half
  9. Temporary Condition -- works great off "#16"
  10. Blind Spot
  11. Other Explorations
  12. Ultra-violet -- REALLY works as the last song: a little whimsical, and very interesting musically; even the first note
I just wish someone had told Scott this before the album was completed. Wait, perhaps someone did, and perhaps Scott ignored him anyways. This may or may not have led to an inordinate amount of focus in his album review on the subject, as some form of "last word revenge." But no one knows.

In the end: get this album at CD Baby or iTunes. I've had it for two years and if anything I love it more now than I did when I got it. Friend or not, I can objectively say Scott's album is great.

Merch Rating: I would buy the single with b-sides that's never going to be released, as well as the entire box set I'll never get a hold of. I'll also buy the vinyl he's never going to press,
the poster he's never going to commission Sheppard Fairey to create, and the t-shirt he's never going to send to Taiwainese laborers to sell for $10 a pop. It's a rich, wonderful, and totally spend-free world I live in.

CD Placement Rating: This has sat in my car CD changer through many a culling, and unfortunately still sits there as the damn thing is now broken. It will remain there for quite some time even after I fix it.

- Snilch

Scott Bishop and Pie Factor Five will be appearing on May 21st at Porter Belly's in Brighton at 9PM.