Occasionally, the gods send down missives to give me sustenance; they make me happier than Newtus Gingricheus at one of Narcissus’ Studio 54 parties. Through them, I worship like Bachelor No. 2 at the Temple of Low Men, sucking spilt milk through my summerteeth with fellow sister lovers, praying for my rubber soul (I could do this all day, people). Why, just recently, Schotticus Brandonus (who goes by Brandon Schott in the space outside my Greeked-out imagination) swooped down in my path, happy as Pegasus at a stud farm, and presented me with his latest testament to the masses, 13 Satellites.
And lo, the gods did smile upon me, for I have looked upon 13 Satellites, and have verily listened to it, and I doth tell y’uns the truth—it is good. Very good. I swear by the sword of Damocles and the shield of Nick Fury, if you have a pop-lovin’ dendrite in your cortexus cerebrus, you will dig this thing. True, Schott has been through some trials and tribulations in recent years (cancer diagnosis and treatment) and some pleasant, if not joyful experiences (daddyhood, collaboratin’, and conversatin’ with esteemed journalistic types [y’all]). Dude poured a bunch of that stuff into his new record, and wound up with something special.
Clocking in a tad under 37 minutes (another great example of the positive aspects of brevity in pop records), 13 Satellites won’t take you long to get through the first time; it’s during the 14, 15, or 16 other times you’ll listen to it that you’ll realize just how much time you’ve sunk into the thing. Schott breaks the three-plus-minute threshold just once—the gorgeous tabla-and-sitar-spiked ballad “Flowers Fading” clocks in at an epic 4:34—and the result is like the coolest AM radio popfest ever broadcast from Olympus.
My ankles sprouted wings when I heard “Full Circle Round” the first time, and as I soared over Krisa, the capitol of Phokis (not to be confused with its sister city, Mutha), I swear I heard “the sound of the rain with the turntable on” that Schott so sweetly describes—a vinyl-lover’s daydream, and a smile-worthy sentiment. “Exploding Angel” is another such moment, even though instead of lovingly describing a spinning black circle, Schott is dressing down an unpleasant sub-deity, whose “halo’s on fire” and “burning up with rage.” The Wilsony harmonies in the breakdown, though, are what sell the song—I’m a sucker for that stuff, and Schott delivers.
I love the acoustic paean to domestic bliss “This Is Home”—the singer’s house sounds like a very, very, very fine house, indeed, and the sweet little keyboard fills would make any power pop aficionado wanna cuddle up the nearest mini-Moog. “Satellite” is a knockout trip down Abbey Road, via Penny Lane, with what I think is a kazoo break in the middle, but rather than being confusing, to the listener, it gently guides the lucky guy or gal around its little turns and twists. The ukulele gets a nice strummin’ in “Building a Boat,” as the foundation for a pretty interlude that floats in and out in 1:09 (eat your heart out, Pollardus Robertae). And if I’m gushing, it’s not just the mead talking; what I feel as I hear these songs, when I engage in a tug-and-pull with an honest-to-gods album—particularly over the course of repeated listenings—is something akin to elation.
And sadness. When I hear Schott’s voice in 13 Satellites, it makes me think of Elliott Smith, who ascended to Olympus in 1994 and who sups with the gods to this day, even as he is absented from this physical plane. I think of XO—Smith’s major label debut, a record I have been unable to get out of my system for nearly 15 years—and how very cool it would be to hear a record that good, in that vein, again, albeit from someone else. And though 13 Satellites is pop of super-fine quality, it’s not that record. But for the first time in a while, I think I hear someone who could ascend to that peak, and I’m hopeful that as Schott progresses in his journey, he continues to grow and his muse takes him to places that challenge him, so that, if he does indeed have that record in him, he’s able to get it down and get it out.
The gods and I will be listening.