Saddle Creek | Now It's Overhead | Reviews


Now It's Overhead

Author: BD
09/25/2001 | | | Album Review
Now It's Overhead is Athens, Georgia's Andy LeMaster (of Bright Eyes production fame) and Clay Leverett flanked by the songstresses behind Azure Ray, Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor. The heavily Mazzy Star influenced Azure Ray released one of the more beautiful full lengths of 2000 (produced by Eric Bachmann) on WARM Records, and followed up by touring the US with Bright Eyes. Given that * of Now It's Overhead is somewhat known on their own merits (Azure Ray), LeMaster and Leverett are the wild cards in this latest Saddle Creek equation. The answer is a welcome change from the down trodden folk, rock, new wave that has become SC's calling card.
Instead, NIO's debut is filled with a strange optimism in it's melodies, backed by dense layers of guitars and ethereal vocals (courtesy Azure Ray), often complimented subtly by bleeps and bursts of electronics. Le Master's alternating whispery / Elephant 6-esque vocals are one of NIO's most obvious strengths, which are commanding but not overpowering, and with Fink and Taylor's angelic backing vocals, it produces a hypnotic mix. LeMaster even calls to mind classics like Peter Gabriel and Sting (in the Police days), as unlikely a combination as it sounds. But even with such classic nods to previous decades, there is very little "retro" about Now It's Overhead.
One of their strongest traits is their ability to use "space" in their songs. Nothing feels rushed, and nothing feels like it's gone on too long. It's a nearly impossible style to perfect, but Now It's Overhead has gotten close on their striking debut. There are only a handful of contemporaries that posses this quality, among them the American Analog Set, and the most recent Yo La Tengo material (see AAS's "Know By Heart" and YLT's "Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out").
That said, Now It's Overhead is not flawless. Some tracks ("6th Grade Roller") are a bit heavy handed electronically and come off as more of an aimless Depeche Mode tribute than anything in the unique direction they forge for the bulk of the record. But overall, LeMaster's songs bring to mind a timeless, surely classic quality, not often heard in today's "indie rock". And NIO's self titled debut shows the kind of promise in a young band that could one day ascend them to "classic" status.