Last updated on January 5, 2014
The gurus in the Sunset Alliance camp are geniuses. They have gathered together a fantastic roster of bands, and Sunset Alliance itself is quickly becoming one of my favorite labels. It’s just all so good! The latest Sunset Alliance band that I have the pleasure of reviewing is a little band by the name of Novi Split.
When I say little band, I mean ‘little’. This acoustic-driven album doesn’t even credit the players to what instruments they played. The liner notes do state, however, that this album was “recorded in the bedrooms of loved ones over the last three years”. Even though it took so long, over half of these tracks are under two minutes and thirty seconds long. What do these things have in common? They all serve to show that there is virtually no fanfare surrounding this album.
But the music feels like it should on an album with no fanfare: humble, inviting, and not hyped. Some ‘small’ releases like these suffer from being too small; they only make sense to the people writing them as a labor of love. Not Novi Split. This acoustic driven folk/pop connects subtly but instantly. Songs such as “Glory! Glory!” are so understated that the confessional lyrics and soft-spoken vocal delivery create the illusion that you are actually talking to the lyricist. It’s the epitome of enveloping.
With the exception of three rock songs and one country ballad, every song here is written in a sparse, haunting down-tempo pop/folk style. As a result, this album is one large emotional sock to the gut. “The New Split” incorporates atmospheric synthesizer, beautiful piano, a xylophone, and heartbreaking harmonies into a beautiful piece about healing from a break-up. This song will go on the every emo kid’s ‘Beautiful Depressing” playlist. I know it’s on mine.
The closest thing that Novi Split has to a radio single would be “Tonight! Tonight!”, a nearly 3-minute pop exclamation point that combines catchy melodies with Novi Split’s characteristic honesty and inclusiveness. It reminded me of Sixpence None the Richer, only with male vocals and less annoying bounce to the arrangement.
This album is a spectacular acoustic album. It has the diversity that so many acoustic acts lack, and it gives us the first taste of some spectacular songwriters. I hope their next album doesn’t take 3 years to record, as I may have withdrawals. Elliot Smith is gone, but Novi Split has skillfully taken his place as the new “great acoustic hope”, returning honesty, passion, and skillful songwriting to the acoustic guitar.