[24 January 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Brandon Schott follows Dandelion, which reflected on a fight with cancer, with the brighter hope of 13 Satellites. The Sgt. Pepper’s-esque carnival of pop sounds here is full of a light joy, of a feeling very close to carefree. Schott’s voice does a lot of that work, lilting with sweet, airy tones throughout. The music, which was created in a long-distance collaboration with drummer Billy Hawn, matches Schott’s voice blow-for-sugary-blow. The best moments mix in surprising elements, like the spaghetti-western guitar hiding behind “Early Morning Light” or the low strings under the piano-thump of “Exploding Angels”. These flourishes cast the slightest shadow behind these songs, not to darken them but to show they can last, because, unfortunately, much of the other stuff doesn’t hold up quite as well. For all its sweetness, 13 Satellites often feels overdone, too bright and shining in its production for its own good. The joyful noise feels honest, no doubt, but it also feels curled in on itself, the pristine sweetness of it closed off to the rest of us. The brighter turn is fine, but the saccharine bounce of “Satellite” or the folk balladry of “My Love Won’t Let Me Down” sand down Schott’s personality so we’re just left with overdone pop anonymity. There’s nothing wrong with brightness, but when you get too much of it at once, it can be blinding.