by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
We talk about publishing rights income for musicians all the time –you know, the money a band gets when its music is used in movies, TV shows, commercials and movie trailers, etc.. Now that record sales are going the way of the dinosaur, it’s one of the few revenue generators left for independent artists. I’m not sure how it works. Labels like Saddle Creek offer agent services to some of its artists, and I’m sure other labels do, too.
I bring it up because Eli Mardock’s music is tailor made for secondary use in marketing media. I’m not sure if that’s a shot or a compliment. In the case of his new record, it’s meant as a tip of the hat. The record’s title track, “Everything Happens for the First Time,” is movie trailer gold. Attention Alexander Payne: You would be wise to seek out this track for the trailer of your next feel-good-heartbreak-romance-
Why is this record’s music so well-suited for secondary use? Well, in addition to Mardock’s uncanny knack for writing stuck-in-your-head melodies, the album is impeccably recorded. This is the best-recorded record I’ve heard out of Omaha in a long time, and that includes all the Saddle Creek stuff. It is stunningly well produced, and the vinyl sounds even better (I guess because my stereo is better than my iPhone soundwise). Beautiful studio work by Mardock (with mixing by Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend, Strokes, Muse)). By the way, Mardock tells me this was recorded, “In my bedroom, in my basement, in an empty building on I street...” ???
The songs themselves are as well-crafted, though it’s easy to spot the (perceived) influences in this record. That title-track/opener is equal parts Arcade Fire and ELO. “Theologians Tell Me” sounds like an homage to Pink Floyd’s “Money.” Lush, tonally dense tracks like “Hold On” recall Bowie and Radiohead.
I don’t care what music you’re listening to, you’re going to pick out references in the melodies — that’s the nature of rock music. The important thing is for the artist to put his or her own spin on it, and Mardock certainly does that. His style is recognizable, from the minor key builds in his song structures to his personal vocal style, which is among the most unique in today’s indie. Listening to this record with my wife, she said she can finally clearly hear Eli’s voice — something that she said is missing when she’s seen him perform live.
Well, the wife wasn’t along Friday night, but she would have had a similar complaint. While you could hear Eli and the rest of the band on O’Leaver’s “stage,” the live set lacked the drama of the record in part due to the limitations of the sound system and the mix. Eli Mardock is one of the very few Nebraska bands that actually sounds better on records because they’re so damn well recorded. To match that level of sound quality would require a Slowdown or Waiting Room, and even then it’s tricky business. Certainly it can’t be done easily with a small club sound rig, which could make his touring a bit… challenging.
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Tonight at The Waiting Room Bloodshot Records artist Wayne “The Train” Hancock headlines. Get a taste of his live show below via YouTube. Opening is good ol’ McCarthy Trenching. $12, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, Lord Huron plays at Slowdown with Enscondido. $10, 9 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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