30 September 2005

harvey danger - "little round mirrors" (from the little by little lp, available for free download here.)

in brief : the important part is that the band have made it a free download; the more important part is that it's actually really good.

poor harvey danger. "flagpole sitta" remains to this day one of my v. favorite singles of the 90's. what happened, though, is that they were misunderstood, subsumed by the postgrunge movement when their hearts were, quite literally, in seattle. their music was used to soundtrack what the cool kids were up to, while the band itself was probably in the library where silence rules. (after all, "i wanna publish zines and rage against machines," the bridge went.) then they did a great cover of "save it for later" for the 200 cigarettes soundtrack and all seemed to be going well. i hung around for their second album, king james version, and thought "sad sweetheart of the rodeo" was another great single, only this time no one was around to listen.

also hanging around for their second album, guesting on vocals, was ben gibbard of the then-unknown death cab for cutie. harvey danger, i hear, essentially discovered death cab. indeed, harvey danger leader sean nelson was a business partner at barsuk records, which, if you can remember that far back, used to be dcfc's home. asked by mtv about his friends' success, and especially their appearances on the o.c., nelson replied:
Death Cab is practically a character on that show! I sang on the Nada Surf cover of [Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's] 'If You Leave' [featured on the soundtrack and show]. I mean, Harvey Danger were on 'Dawson's Creek' a lot, which was sort of 'The O.C.' of the '90s. Maybe I could do a cameo as someone's grandpa. That would be fun.
if "little round mirrors," the song i've posted today, doesn't do just that, then, seriously, the people at the o.c. need to clean out their freakin' ears.

i've never seen an episode of the o.c., but i get the gist of it. at the end of an episode, there's probably a big, emotional moment where someone broke someone's heart, or someone's just totally into themselves and it's tearing someone else apart. it's a v. good looking agony, and that's what "little round mirrors" is, pain and beauty in equal parts, and it's just immense. it would fit in perfectly on lexicon of love, somewhere near "all of my heart," and that is just about the highest praise i can give to a ballad.

which probably doesn't jive w/ what you remember of harvey danger. little by little is a v. pop album, w/ a broad instrumental palette. there's maybe one song ("cream & bastards rise") that sounds like the band you remember--if you remember them at all. i admit, at this stage, when i saw the words "harvey danger" and "free album," my expectations were about as low as their commercial profile is today. now, i'm outright shocked that they're just giving this thing away. which, they insist in an explanation on their website, they're not:
[I]t’s important that people understand the free download concept isn’t a frivolous act. It’s a key part of our promotional campaign, along with radio and press promotion, live shows, and videos. It’s a bet that the resources of the Internet can make possible a new way for musicians to find their audience – and forge a meaningful artistic career built on support from cooperative, not adversarial, relationships.

We realize that digital files are the primary means by which a huge segment of the population is exposed to new music; we also believe that plenty of music lovers in the world will buy a record once they’ve heard it – whether via radio or computer.

We also believe there’s an inherent qualitative difference at work—not only between MP3s and CDs, but between clicking a mouse and finding a record on the shelves of a good record store. These experiences are not mutually exclusive – they’re interdependent facets of music fandom, and equally important considerations for a band in our position.


Whether or not people will buy something they can get for free is obviously a big question, and there are facts and figures to support both sides of the argument. We think it’s not only possible, but likely. The more fundamental challenge is ensuring people have access to your work to begin with.

This is by no means a manifesto. We don’t pretend to be the first band to spin a variation of the shareware distribution model. We love record labels and record stores. We buy lots of CDs and are committed to supporting independent music. We’re not a bunch of fake Marxists. We’re just trying to be smart capitalists so we can sustain our lives as musicians. This is an experiment. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the record. Everything else is secondary.
i'm v. interested in seeing how this experiment goes, but, yes, that is secondary, b/c i'm v. interested in the record, which is something i never thought i'd be saying about a new harvey danger album--and something i'd never have had a chance to say w/o this download.


mp3hugger said...

I just came by your blog by chance and well em...feel a bit inadequate actually. Have just started a similiar blog, an mp3 a day type thing. What you are doing is really impressive, informative and funny. Will be swinging by regularly. Best of luck.

fred said...

mp3hugger: you could have posted your url and i wouldn't have minded. like this.

best of luck to you also, but if song selection so far is anything to go by, you have little to worry about!

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