Band: Steve Hefter and Friends (and Friends of Friends)
Album: A Six Song Demonstration
Best Element: Beautiful, catchy, well-composed songs.
Genre: Indie pop
When I first began writing reviews for Independent Clauses, someone (who isn’t affiliated with the site) mentioned to me that the albums I would be reviewing wouldn’t be very good. I have to admit that there have been a few bands that I personally did not like, but I can now shove a copy of A Six Song Demonstration in their face and laugh and laugh and laugh until I pee my pants. Steve Hefter and Friends’ debut attempt at a self-produced and self-engineered album, which is a whopping seventeen and a half minutes, is pure gold. This has got to be one of the best self-released albums of the year.
Hefter and his friends begin their demonstration with a perfect Rogue Wave sounding hum in “Ludicrous Bubblegum Flavors.” Although this track is very telling of Hefter and Friends’ musical style, it is one of the weaker tracks and becomes a little repetitive after a few times. This, however, is something that you will not encounter again. Hefter, French, Keen, and Ward all do a wonderful job on vocals that contribute to the character of the album without detracting from the music. “Diamond Ring” is undoubtedly the most beautifully written track on the album. It’s as if Hefter is ready to propose. Well Mr. Hefter, my ears say “I do” and take your amazing lyrics as their life partner. One of the best aspects of Hefter’s demonstration is the ability to put melancholy, and sometimes amusing, lyrics down with a gorgeous piano or violin (or both) melody.
In “Forget It,” Hefter sings of a relationship recently ended, saying that “my drinks will be mixed by spoons that have fixed broken down hearts in a pinch,” and then confidently ends by saying “as long as you know you are going to hell…ma’belle.” The following track is much more amusing. “Crippled,” my favorite track and the catchiest by far, features a screeching harmonica. I give kudos to the friend of Hefter’s who played that line. Unfortunately, “harmonica” is not included under anyone’s name in the booklet. “Crippled” and the following track, “Dry,” vaguely reminded me of Oh No! Oh My!, but only in subject matter. Musically, they are worlds apart. The final track on the demonstration, “Invisible,” is similar to something from Andrew Bird. Too bad it isn’t longer. Overall, the demonstration does an amazing job of changing up the instrumentation and musical style, proving that Hefter is going to be able to pull a lot more out of his hat on future releases.
I wish this effort had been longer. Somehow the seventeen and a half minutes just don’t do it for me. I will just have to bite my fingernails and listen to something that I don’t appreciate as much to bide the time until Hefter and Friends do a full-length. It is definitely one of my favorite albums this year and if you pass it up you are making a huge mistake. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.