Saddle Creek has always been incestuous, with key players (and seemingly everyone else) being in several bands or side projects and/or doing guest appearances on other band’s releases. This ‘scene’ helped to dub Omaha as an unlikely indie rock super-city by mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin around the time of Bright Eyes’ dual releases early in 2005. Though the label seems to be back out of the limelight now, they are still working the cross-breeding angle with Now It’s Overhead.
Dark Light Daybreak is actually the third album from the band, with past releases in 2001 and 2004; I don’t know how I could have possibly missed the boat on the band with ‘that producer guy who was in the Bright Eyes backing band who has an album with the girls from Azure Ray on it.’ That guy is Andy LeMaster, who actually resides in Athens, Georgia where he is a recording engineer at the apparently sought-after studio Chase Park Transduction (R.E.M. recorded there at some point I guess). He played a bunch and helped record for Fevers and Mirrors and Lifted... in Nebraska, but his part on I’m Wide Awake... consisted only of backing vocals for one track. And anyway, despite the foot-in-the-door tales of Saddle Creek collaborations written in their press sheets, we find that here Now It’s Overhead is mostly a one-man show, with drummer Clay Leverett making the only large contribution while Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor are underemployed on vocals and are usually low in the mix. No big-name guests this time around either.
“Let the Sirens Rest” starts things out like the soundtrack for a sappy montage from a John Hughes (or other cheesy `80s) movie. Its droning atmospheric feel is, in actuality, kind of boring and falls into the background where it belongs. “Estranged” tries to verify the My Bloody Valentine comparison I keep reading about with its simple beat and relaxed male/female harmonies, but other than this I don’t hear the connection anywhere else.
The choppy waltz of “Type A” helps it to become one of the more rousing tracks found here, and has become one of my top choices as well as “Walls” with its pounding off-kilter drum beat and short-of-breath vocals. Unfortunately, these tracks are in the minority, but from what I’ve read and the few old tracks I’ve heard, these songs are more rocking than any of their old stuff, so perhaps LeMaster is branching out. Later on we find “Let Up” being a merely passable sad song, but as it adds handclaps to the rhythm of the acoustic strumming and drum machine, the vocals repeat "I won’t die / Won’t die and the song redeems itself. I’m a sucker for handclaps.
The overall feel of Dark Light Daybreak is way too close to the pop/soft rock that you’d hear on your parents’ radio station. The songs have decent melodies and they rock out enough (but not too much), so therefore they lose my interest, like Coldplay. Closer “Nothing in Our Way” sounds to me like Jack Johnson -- not that I go out of my way to hear that guy -- but I think it was some similar sensitive soft crap like this. And at the end the vocals soar upwards saying the title in a little Thom Yorke impression. Yawn; The Bends did it better.
Despite the same ol’ story of Saddle Creek connections, Now It’s Overhead does provide something different from their standard fare. But it is a little too safe and radio-friendly to make me excited. It’s obviously carefully crafted and LeMaster uses his studio well, but the truth is the songs for the most part don’t do it for me.