It started with “the Great Gravitron Massacre”. I think. Maybe it was “Come Back to Shelby”. Either way, it was on a Suburban Home Records sampler CD. The old ones with the shitty little sticker with the title of the comp but no other data. I wasn’t sure who it was but the song stuck with me every time I listened to the disc.
So I sorted out who it was and picked up “III” by Two Cow Garage and quickly got to know and love the songs of Micah Schnabel and Shane Sweeney. If those guys just kept making “III” I probably would have still dug them a bit. That wasn’t the plan though. Every new record has broadened out the scope and nature of their songs. Micah’s new solo outing, “Your New Norman Rockwell”, is a new frontier that is both a surprising change and a beautiful fusion of every other stop on the journey so far.
Micah has always been a great wordsmith. Complex and heartfelt are not two concepts that always ride together comfortably but Micah keeps finding new ways to express the nuance of the broad topics of love, family, self worth, music and the terror and joy of daily life. On “Your New Norman Rockwell” his relationship with words and language seem to be turned to 11. The more personal a story Micah tells the more universal it feels. The closer he pulls in the wider his reach.
The tone throughout is confrontational but not angry. Confident without swagger, more self assured than pushy. The nervous energy that skips across the album (and comes to an early, if brief, release at 2:22 of JAZZ AND CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH) adds to the desperate and pleading urgency in the lyrics. The melodies are insistent but not obnoxious and the album pushes and pulls with sections featuring acoustic guitar and voice nestled next to full band arrangements. “Hello, My Name Is Henry” could be Soul Asylum circa “Hang Time”. The beating of the heart is that of a troubadours no matter the dressing though. Acoustic and some hard truths, directed inward and outward, are tucked away in almost every track.
I don’t know why exactly but I can already say this is an album that I will be listening to a lot while traveling. I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s the unsettled nature of the album, maybe it’s the way “The Interview” sounds like slowly driving out of town for the first minute or so then laying into it once you hit the freeway.
I think Micah managed to find a pretty great mission statement for himself and the rest of us too
“oh what bummer it is to be a human being, oh how amazing it can be to be a human being” – Oh, What a Bummer
Words to live by, friends. It’s an ugly world out there, but we don’t have to be ugly about it. Take one listen to “Your New Norman Rockwell” and tell me you don’t want to do better. Essential listening of course. And with a gorgeous cover by Vanessa Jean Speckman it’s worth getting the CD not just the download. Micah Schnabel – “Your New Norman Rockwell” is out today, June 9th, on Last Chance Records. Go get it, support art you love. Get out and go see Micah play too, it’s good for you. Builds character.