The music that comes from the labels (not necessarily the majors) and the PR firms usually gets a listen first. The reason may seem a bit callous, but let’s face it — artists that are on labels and/or have the means to hire PR firms are generally further along in their careers. (Notice, though, that I didn’t say they’re better.) So the sad fact is that I often can’t find the time to listen to the music that might come to us from a band that’s discovered our site. Like the better indie record labels, we’re happy to get your music, but there are no guarantees.
Yesterday, for the first time in months, I found myself a little ahead for a change. Jeff Giles had forwarded an e-mail to me a couple of weeks ago from a band from Charlotte, North Carolina, that included a download link for their album. But after I downloaded the zip file, there it sat on my computer for two weeks. I recalled that in the e-mail Jeff had forwarded, he’d included a short note that said, “This isn’t bad.” Given my respect for Jeff’s musical taste, that was enough for me to pluck Side by Side’s Morning from the downloads folder and start listening.
According to their e-mail, website, and MySpace page, Side by Side consists primarily of twin brothers Joseph and Michael Pepe. Their music is driven by keyboards and drum machines and is very much in the style of the New Romantic movement that was popular in England in the ’80s. The vocals are hushed — whispered, really — and the lyrics are straight from the heart. Here’s the good news: this is lovely, compelling music.
There’s a Scottish band called the Blue Nile that not enough people on this side of the Atlantic are aware of. I’ve been a fan of theirs for many years, with a particular fondness for their classic 1989 album Hats. Listen to “The Downtown Lights” — Side by Side remind me of them in many ways, and that’s a very good thing indeed. There’s something about the beauty of the Pepes’ melodies and the emotion with which they’re delivered, thanks in no small part to the vocals of Allison Modafferi on several tracks, that is wonderfully warm and welcoming. This genre of music, based as it is on electronic sounds, can be quite sterile at times, but that’s not the case here. Side by Side have humanized the machines to great effect.
Morning charts the aftermath of a relationship (the album’s title is an ironic play on words), and the opening track, “Alive,” does a nice job of using a lengthy introduction to evoke the beginning of a new day and the dawning realization that the singer is alone. Toward the end of the album he faces another day on “Disappear,” but this one’s tinged with hope. Morning is perfect late-night music. Turn the lights off, lay back, and let it wash over you.