Reviews

Dark Light Daybreak

Author: Sean Moeller
08/28/2006 | Playback St Louis | www.playbackstl.com | Feature
The last time Now It's Overhead lead singer and songwriter Andy LeMaster wore his producer's hat on someone else's work, it was when he recorded R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Coldplay's, Gwyneth's, Apple's, and Moses' Chris Martin doing a cover version of Joseph Arthur's song "In the Sun" for an iTunes-released EP to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Then he stopped being a friend and got selfish to work on Dark Light Daybreak, his band's third full-length and follow-up to 2004's Fall Back Open, for Saddle Creek Records—you know, that Nebraskan label we all associate with that one guy with the black hair and the bad teeth, the shaky voice, the copious comparisons to Robert Allen Zimmerman, and the wine addiction.

"I've learned that it's incredibly distracting to work on someone else's record when I'm working on my own," LeMaster said in July from the city of San Francisco, a place he was trying, without much success, to leave while on tour with Tilly and the Wall and David Dondero. "I spent nearly a year on this and I've got a full plate with it right now."

Dark Light Daybreak is another array of woozy and shadowy songs that make clear why LeMaster and his band have earned the reputation of making dreamy pop music. LeMaster makes the kind of music that could come from staring at the spinning reflections from a mirror ball, cast onto a dimly lit and shiny dance floor. That's if there were only such things as happy endings and no converse. There's a real foreboding in many of these dreams, but the bogeymonster is never a life-threatener; there's always the safety net of a nightlight, similar to a male version of how Eisley approaches its own songs of the night and its enchantment.

"I don't mind my songs being called 'dreamy.' I like creating a world that you can put things on. It's an alternate reality. But there's also reality in my songs. I definitely feel like I have both," he said. "Just because something's dreamy, it doesn't mean it doesn't have a backbone."

LeMaster works alone, but he's come to rely on the assistance and creative input that his band—which includes Azure Ray's sweet singers Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor—provides in moments of overindulgence. As a producer, who is so at home in a studio setting and who uses the studio as another writing tool, LeMaster has had to monitor how much he inhales on those studio fumes, making him drunk on audio possibilities.

"It's hard to know when a song's finished," he said. "It's kind of like finishing a painting. You know when you're done. I follow that philosophy.

"I always try to check my motivation for doing something. I don't sit around and think that I should write these really insane MIDI tracks. It's only when I hear things in my head that I have to pursue them. It's an ongoing thing, but I've learned my lesson from it. I don't go in there all day long and just beat off. All of the music that I like is not because of all the bells and whistles. I tend to like layers when I'm listening to something, but I'm not precious with anything until it's the way I want it to be. The danger is always that you wind up with something that's worked to death."

With his latest effort, LeMaster seems to have worked his songs to life—even if those lives take place predominantly from the other side of shut eyelids.


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