Desert Island Disc: Calling Distance Stations, The Nines

The Nines - Calling Distance StationsEvery so often, in a state of anxiety, I’ll wonder if, like oil, melodies are a finite resource and that we’ll soon run out of them. And judging from the lawsuits arising from hip-hop’s unauthorized uses of riffs and snippets of other songs, you wonder if that day is quickly looming

Then you hear Calling Distance Stations from the Nines, and all is well with the world. In fact, it’s so well that you wonder if lead vocalist Steve Eggers has cornered the market on the best melodies, discovering some secret formula for creating tunes that elicit such joy and euphoria.

I’ve mentioned The Nines previously on this blog, and this won’t be the last time, either. In their 10-year career, the band has released four albums, the latest being last year’s Gran Jukle’s Field. But Calling Distance Stations is a masterpiece.

From the opening chords of the fast-paced “Drama Queen,” Eggers channels Ben Folds, but without the attitude. “Take What You Want” has multiple hooks – so many, in fact, that you wonder (back again to a finite supply of melodies) if he shouldn’t conserve and just use a couple. The fact that he doesn’t take this advice and instead crams them all into one song is a wonderful experiment in melodic excess.

The production is fairly simple. “Mary Jane” seems straight out of a Wings album, sounding sad and beautiful at the same time. It begins with a simple piano, and builds slowly with a horns section. There’s something about adding horns that makes a song sound important, and that feeling is not lost with this song.

Other times, Eggers uses the simplicity to perfection, with only a keyboard and his voice to express his thoughts. “Marigold” has a turn-of-the-century, Americana feel, touched slightly with strings. And “Goodnight My Love,” a lullaby for his daughter, can bring tears to your eyes.

As I’ve said before, Steve Eggers has so many ideas he’s uploading snippets under pseudonyms on MySpace, at times using nonsensical syllables in place of words just so he can get the melodies down. He is an unknown master composer, and it’s a shame his music is not better known. So go buy his records. It will help him pay the bills, and it will bring a smile to your face.

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