Pilots: Beneath the Pavement, a Beach!
Although the name indicates a band, the driving force of The Celebrity Pilots is Chris Sheehan; his resume includes working with members of Guided by Voices, The Witch Hazel Sound and The All Golden. Beneath The Pavement, A Beach! is essentially his first solo project, which goes from soft acoustic ballads to garage rock to huge soundscaping studio productions all of which are done well. Yes, this Ohio boy has put out a 14-song collection to highlight each of his talents as a songwriter. I prefer when he chooses to rock out more than the big sound productions, but hey thats me; Im from Ohio, I like it when Ohioans rock. But in saying that, Im not suggesting the rest of the album isnt good or up to par with the rockers far from it.
The opening track, Weve Lost Kasparov, lets you know from the get go that Sheehan is not new to the studio. He knows how to find sounds that can take a little pop song and turn it into a heavily orchestrated sonic feast. Its not surprising to find out that one of Sheehans many influences include Wilco, as several of these tracks have a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot feel to them. But its the second track, Have You Had Success, that really got me into this album. Its a jangled rocker with well-placed synth parts that truly expose Sheehans Ohio roots. Sheehan commented in his bio that he spent time with GBVs Bob Pollard, and it helped inspire him to create this album: After watching Pollard crank out 20-some tunes in a few days I thought it was time I just give it a go and get out some of my own songs. This song and a handful of other tracks reflect the influence that Pollard had on Sheehan.
Nearing the end of the disc, one finds Sheehan going into a more somber and acoustic mood. The tracks seem to have a Nick Drake meets Sparklehorse kind of feel. A particular standout is (La La) Last Time, an acoustic number that allows you to get a better perspective of Sheehan: Here its in the parties, you are a hit/Blessed are the fools with what they miss/You are going to be a silly old man/Cursed are the friends, that held you back. Sheehans lyrics seem well thought out, personal, and biting. It takes a few listens to start putting everything together; the vocals are mixed into the music making it at times tough to hear them. It seems like the number one focus for Sheehan is creating the music, and the vocals are mixed as another instrument. I like it when vocals are mixed that way (except when Im trying to hear lyrics for help in writing music reviews).
This is a solid album, and with each listen I find something new. I think that quality is what makes it a good record, and it calls me back for more listens. There is no doubt that Sheehan is a talent, and Im interested to see what happens when he gets some musicians together to present these songs live. Look for The Celebrity Pilots on tour this fall.
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