Little By Little
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Little By Little... Deluxe Edition
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The third LP by Seattle band Harvey Danger is the sound of a radically transformed group. In place of their distorted alt/garage rock is a mellower, less caustic, more melodically adventurous sound, reveling in a classic pop sensibility that owes everything to the band members' evolving musical interests. The biggest change is the dominance of piano throughout, given pianist/guitarist Jeff Lin's classical training on the instrument. Other songs provide reminders that the band can still make with the catchy indie rock as well as traverse less easily classified musical terrain.
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However, I doubt you'll hate this album. Harvey Danger is so brilliant that even an angst-ridden goth-wannabe like me (I'm a huge NIN fan) has to smile and enjoy their cheeky cynicism and playful sound. I hate pop, as a rule, but this stuff is genius. The lyrics are clever, almost to a fault. The singer belts out his abundant, saucy one-liners with glee, and his biting humor is contagious. The music is a perfect match for the lyrics: snide, snickering, and absurdly catchy ("Flagpole Sitta" was not a fluke). The band has moved away from its more punk-rock sound on "Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone" and moved more toward subtle pop (example: "Wine, Women, and Song"), but have lost none of their edge.
If there's fault to find, it's in the production. It's clear that this album didn't benefit from an unlimited budget and top-of-the-line equipment, but most people probably won't even notice. Even most audiophiles should find the recording tolerable, particularly given the quality of the material.
Do yourself a favor and buy this record; you'll be enjoying it for a long time.
Engineered, Mixed and Produced by John Goodmanson and Steve Fisk
Recorded at Robert Lang Studios and Soundhouse
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound
It must be hard to be known as a one-hit-wonder, and from that career defining moment trying to create an album that'll prove the critics wrong, and keep the music on the groundbreaking floor. Well, it has been five years since the band has kicked the fans King James Version, how does the new-new material feel? It feels different. Not rock in my shoe different, but completely new shoes different.
Seattle's homegrown Harvey Danger has changed their sound, losing much of the vigorous post-grunge that got their career in gear several years ago. The waltzing album opener, "Wine, Women, and Song" enters with piano, a strolling beat, and Sean Nelson's sharp croon, and from that moment on, it's obvious that the band has grown. Little by Little... is slower paced than the first two albums, now the songs are complex chamber-pop overtures with organs, keyboards and symphonic underpinnings. It's like the band threw in the post-grunge towel, saying, "enough with the stripped down alternative, let's go in the opposite direction of the pop spectrum."
Song highlights include "Moral Centralia" and "Happiness Writes White." Where the former jingles up to the listener like oncoming sleigh bells, building into a mountainous outburst of drums and vocal power. The latter song takes a bouncing piano melody, cruising rhythm, and sews them together with Nelsons sweet vocals, harmonizing "Happiness writes white / happiness writes white!" This song truly envelops the bouncy album. The band may have grown in sound, but the definitive Harvey Danger elements, the quirky lyrics, and grappling pop hooks retain the bands true pop sensibilities.
Little by Little... comes bundled with a bonus disk, which showcases some lo-fi unreleased material, demos, and song snippets. The bonus disk gives the listener a hook-loaded backstage pass into the album creating process.
Although having a few sluggish moments in the body, it's a strong album, fantastically fun and marks a great re-welcoming for the band back into the pop mainstream. (Phonographic Records)