[31 March 2004]
Let’s summarize for a moment. Nebraska is a flat, landlocked, farming state. The state’s principle crops are corn, soybeans, and winter wheat. Throw in a few ranches and pig farms and you’ve got a population of farmers that in all likelihood wouldn’t recognize an Indie music scene if it rolled through town tooting horns and whistles. Generalization over. Omaha, Nebraska has grown its own music scene—one that has become the most prolific and relevant in recent history. The Saddle Creek family is quite the anomaly. What’s in the drinking water that so many talented artists and bands emerge from this flat, landlocked, farming state?
Statistics is not a part of the Saddle Creek clan; however, singer/songwriter/guitar/synth player, Denver Dalley does come from Omaha with all the other Indie kids. And his other band, Desaparecidos, is on Saddle Creek. However, because Desa front man, Conor Oberst, tours almost year-round with his other band, Bright Eyes, Dalley’s got time to devote to his alter-ego, Statistics. His full-length debut, Leave Your Name came out on Wilmington, Delaware Indie, Jade Tree. While the labels may be several states apart, Statistics has the Omaha Stamp of Approval.
If Omaha had a Stamp of Approval for its artists, it would recognize the presence of slightly fuzzy production, understated guitar playing, synthesizers that create ambient and sometimes ethereal sounds, and moody, poignant lyrics about heartbreak, self-discovery and the music industry.
Statistics has all of these stereotypical Indie characteristics, yet Dalley succeeds in producing his own brand of catchy, dark electro-pop. Finishing at just under 30 minutes, Leave Your Name zips by in a series of three-minute tracks shot through with little 30-second and minute-long interludes. “Sing A Song” opens the album and serves as Dalley’s shot at music critics doing exactly what I’m doing now—dissecting the pop song to find out if it’s useful. The song would definitely work as a radio single—straightforward lyrics and a great quiet-to-loud chorus that has a simple and memorable hook. “Sing A Song” leads right into the title track, a 37-second recording of the “Your call could not be connected” message. The track is oddly haunting with the synthesizer weaving in and out of the words.
“The Grass is Always Greener” is a no-nonsense, slow-burning rock song about the need to be famous. The next track, “Mr. Nathan”, shows Dalley as the rock star he really is, with the album’s biggest guitar riffs and percussion. “Hours Seemed Like Days” is an unabashed pop song with a distinctive guitar hook and a plucky beat. Dalley sings about his longing for the days of simpler media—no CDs or DVDs or CG animation—and life at a slower pace. “Used to be that hours seemed like days / Let’s just press rewind.”
Throughout the record, Dalley’s voice remains buried in his instruments, especially on “2 A.M.”, where the vocals are mixed at just about the same volume as the guitar. Similarly, on “A Number, Not A Name”, the percussion and old-fashioned synthesizer take precedence over Dalley’s disdainful lyrics about someone who’s “a point in this argument / You’re a number, not a name.”
This conscious mixing choice isn’t a bad one, because it draws more attention to Dalley’s guitar and synthesizer work. His arrangements are meticulous and delicate even when carried out by a distorted guitar. His talents really show on “Circular Memories”, the instrumental closer. Each sound, from the subtle and repetitive riff, to the haunting rhythm has its place. No one instrument dominates or eclipses any other and the effect is quietly beautiful. While other songs on the album are more obviously pop and rock tunes, they possess the same aesthetic. This new voice from Omaha has asserted himself as sophisticated and smart. Leave Your Name reflects that.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/statistics-leave/