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Album Review

SHADE
One Last Show of Hearts

If you haven't heard me spouting the virtues of Shade lately, I must be out of hearing distance because every time I hear their latest album, One Last Show of Hearts, I look for people close enough to listen because I am fast becoming a fan club all in myself. The band has recently downsized to just Jane Gowan and pop genius Tim Vesely and that's fine with me, though I still yearn for that full band sound of Shade's first album, Highway. The sound has not degraded at all, though, and they multi-tracked parts so that you get the band and not just two musicians plucking on instruments. It is Gowan, her guitar and her voices, Vesely and his many instruments (have I mentioned that he is a pop genius?) and the feel that made me fall in love with them in the first place--- a sort of easy going and minimal but not quite minimal feel. As I type, the album version of Peace of Mind plays in the background and I'm almost skating through the mountains. They have an instrumental version they posted on YouTube (watch it here) which makes me think of Neil Young and his excellent beginning to his solo career, The Emperor of Wyoming, and every time I hear it I know why I love these guys.

They strike a note in me that very few artists or bands do. I love simple pop and simple power pop and I absolutely crave melody and harmony and Gowan gets it. Maybe Gowan and Vesely because I don't have liner notes to work off of, so I'm assuming here (and yes, I'm an ass). Through these seven songs, I get everything I could want--- melodies which are good enough on their own but are made so much better by the harmonies--- songs perfectly fitted to Gowan's perfect/imperfect voice, not one to probably impress the “judges” on the reality travesties right now (proving to me that not only has music become superfluous to the average music listener but that we are on the verge of the apocalypse--- I stop by occasionally when flipping channels thinking that maybe one of those one-time but now washed up “stars” and now “judges” will have a moment of clarity or at least intelligence, but I think it's a lost cause--- they just suck, that's all). I have daydreams in which Gowan performs one of her tunes on X-Factor or American Idol or The Voice and they trash her and I, sitting in the audience up to that point, jump on stage and pound every one of their tin-eared asses into a bloody pulp. Wait. What?

Whew. Sorry about that. Sometimes being the only one with taste in a world gone mad is almost more than I can bear, but such is the cross, eh?

What was I saying? Ah, yes. Jane Gowan. You know what she is to me? Elvis Costello. Yup. She's my Elvis Costello in that every time I hear her, I know her like the back of my hand, just as Costello's fans know him. Hey, I've heard Costello plenty and he doesn't have a perfect voice either except for the songs he writes and sings and then he's damn near perfect. Do you get what I'm saying here? If you don't, you're thick as a brick, to quote that weird guy who dances on one foot whilst playing the flute.

Know what? While I was typing all of that, the album recycled back to Peace of Mind. God, but some days life is good, you know?

Tell you what. I'm going to do you a favor here. I'm going to give you a link to one of Shade's bandcamp sites (here you go) so you can listen instead of read. I know. I'm a magnanimous kind of a guy. Don't just listen for a second or even just once. Listen a few times at a minimum. Start with Peace of Mind because in my head that is a Shade gateway drug, but from there go wherever you will. It's all good. For me, it is much better than that. Which means that you can pry my Shade music from my head when I am dead. Or, if I'm lucky and there really is an afterlife, I'll carry it with me.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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