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Tuesday, February 8, 8:30pm
Friday, March 11, 9pm
We just received this glowing review on the Italian music site, rootshighway.it. Check it out:
We finally got to it. Calmly, without the anxiety of having to keep up with the constant stream of (un)consciousness of today's disco-graphic bazaar, following paths of the calm and conscientious travelers, which we are indeed. This preamble is simply to state that, if we feel we have stumbled onto something really worthwhile, we will never avoid our obligation to bring it to your attention sooner or later on these pages. Distant Drumming is the third long term effort by the New Yorkers The Brilliant Mistakes, and actually goes back to the fall of 2008 (released on the Scandinavian market in 2009, over a year ago.) So, it would have been easy to ignore the new CD. But, we could simply not ignore these ten pop songs, light-hearted and bursting with a great deal of kick. Alan Walker, Erik Philbrook, and Paul Mauceri, the three in charge of this project, will forgive us for the delay, we are certain. They do not like doing projects in a hurry: Distant Drumming came five years after Dumb Luck, almost 15 years after the group's debut and is the result of an entire year of "after work" (bits and pieces of time stolen from wives, children, daytime jobs, and watching "The Sopranos," as explained by the bass player and songwriter Erik Philbrook) — chiseling those songs in the basement studio of producer Lincoln Schleifer (Levon Helm, Solomon Burke, Buddy Miller).
The result is worth the effort—for them and especially for us. Over time, The Brilliant Mistakes have earned a fairly good reputation for their pop/rock in the style of the seventies, music in which melodies intertwine, bouncing amidst happy, rhythmic dynamics. Such qualities have not lessened in their new work, but rather have come out more enriched by greater attention paid to the details, the "color" of the sound, the instrumental interplay. Certain sprinklings of Hammond B-3 or of Farfisa will catapult lovers of vintage music into ecstasy. With due credit to the production effort and to the inspiration of invited guests of noble pedigree, one can hear the guitar of the Dylanian Larry Campbell and of Marc Schulman (Suzanne Vega). The ease with which the choruses imprint themselves on the minds of the listeners has remained the signature trademark of the songs written by this group, it is enough to simply to listen to "The Day I Found My Hands" or "Time In the Night" to understand it. But, the songs suggest a layering that increases their complexity: hear the drive in the bass and the playful dissonance of the guitars in "The Circle's Not Broken" or the dynamic ambiences (alt-country, lounge?) of the ambitious "Becoming."
We are not simply faced with the nth grandchildren of Big Star, or with the already acknowledged influences (Beatles, Kinks, Squeeze, Cheap Trick and obviously — if you understand the origin of their name—Elvis Costello), we can add the influences of groups with the Americana sound, a more pop Jayhawks ("Good Year For a Change") and the less experimental Wilco (especially in the songs written by Walker, keyboard player and second songwriter: "The Words" being a good example). The acoustic guitar has gained a greater place than in the past and the harmonies (listen to "Water Falling Down") are less angular and seem to have softened, and also a little sweeter, as if they left New York to dry in the California sun. Distant Drumming is a treasure to be (re)discovered. — www.rootshighway.it
The recipe for Brilliant Mistakes:
Dumb luck, smart songwriting
By DAVE MADELONI
"We practiced the hard parts and studied the big charts / There were days when we thought we had it in the can / We'll never give up / Now we're leaving it up / to dumb luck"
These lines from the title track of The Brilliant Mistakes' 2003 release capture the dilemma faced by an interesting and intrepid indie band that very few people know. The New York City-based trio creates meticulously melodic pop records that critics love, (and compare to the likes of Squeeze, Wilco, Crowded House, Steely Dan, Ben Folds, The Kinks and Elvis Costello, to name a few), but not nearly enough people hear.
Gifted singer-songwriters Alan Walker and Erik Philbrook along with their trusty drummer Paul Mauceri surely deserve a dose of dumb luck.
Count me in as one of those adoring critics -- "Dumb Luck" made my top 10 list six years ago. And I eagerly awaited the Brill's follow-up, which finally landed in my CD player late last year. My rudimentary math skills compute that with just 10 tracks on their third full-length studio effort "Distant Drumming," Walker and Philbrook cranked out on the average about one song each per year since "Dumb Luck." The five-year delay turned out to be a function of the complications of balancing intense day jobs, new homes, marriage and family obligations as well as the group's painstaking approach to crafting songs.
But oh, those songs. "Distant Drumming" contains catchy, and clever gems that were well worth the wait. And since the band will be making a rare appearance this Saturday night at The Basement, a tiny club across from the Iron Horse in Northampton, I figured I would do my part to get the word out about this buried treasure.
In a phone interview, Alan Walker was philosophical about his group's lack of commercial success. "To me, it is amazing that we are still doing it, and we are only still doing it because we can't not do it. As you get older and all the things that make the process difficult, whether it is rehearsing or scheduling things, and all the time it takes to do it right ... it is tough to be an independent act. But we are just happy that we do what we do the way we want to do it. That is the tradeoff as an indie. Follow your gut. Follow your heart."
The Brills certainly took their time to get "Distant Drumming" just right, spending a year tinkering in a basement studio in the Bronx, working with producer/bassist Lincoln Schleifer -- who has collaborated with the likes of Levon Helm, Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen and Solomon Burke.
According to Walker, the band took a more scrupulous approach to the recording process. "This time we did a lot less arranging before entering the studio and didn't have such a preconception of how the songs were going to turn out. Instead of going to a rehearsal space which is the traditional way to bang out songs, the three of us basically spent a lot of time in Paul's apartment where we figured out the songs but not exactly where they were going to go -- we left a lot of space, a lot of room for them to grow and have it be a little more of an organic process once we hit the studio. ... This kind of process is a little more labor intensive but more creative, because you get the feeling that anything might happen to a song. It can become something you didn't expect."
For "Dumb Luck" The Brills used just one guitarist. This time they indulged in having five different players put their stamp on the tracks -- including Larry Campbell, best known for his work with Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello. "That was purely accidental" recalled Walker, who plays keyboards. "He was at the studio and heard one of the cuts and said we should put some acoustic on it -- We asked, ‘Do you want to do it?' He said ‘sure.'"
A touch of dumb luck
Album highlights include Philbrook's haunting ballad, "Water Falling Down" which was completely transformed in the studio, according to Walker. "That could have been a very straight pop song but it took on its own life. It is such a great song -- the apparent simplicity of it -- but there is a lot going on. Š We could have added some background vocals, in a Beach Boys mode, but it went in totally the opposite direction, and ended up this raw, personal, intimate, sad love song. It is my favorite on the record."
One of my favorites is the elusive "Good Year For a Change," a Walker composition that he admits is difficult to pin down. "I love the lyrics -- they are a little out there. Even as the writer of that song, it is not quite easy to explain exactly what it means. One of my favorite quotes is by Elvis Costello, when someone asked him what a song meant, he said, ‘If I could describe what it meant I wouldn't have written the song.' I can say it is a personal song, it is about a relationship, it could be about a marriage, it could be about a friendship, it could be about anything really. It is a song with a very uplifting side and a very dark side as well. It is very hard for me to say what inspired it."
A dynamic that makes The Brilliant Mistakes so brilliant is having two distinct but complimentary songwriters who share a common musical vision. "What draws us together is really mutual fondness or love for a certain kind of melodic pop writing, a mutual interest in the same kind of bands, the same kind of music over the years," added Walker, "I think we are just lucky."
Dave Madeloni writes a weekly music column for Ovation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"On Distant Drumming these 'Brilliant Mistakes' sound like the Davies-brothers in 'The Kinks'. Complex free, enchanting and classical pop songs that will bring pleasure to its listeners and which can be played as such on any self respecting hits radio station."—Rootstime"I'm a little late to the party on this excellent NY act called The Brilliant Mistakes. Distant Drumming was released last year, five years after its predecessor Dumb Luck. And it was dumb luck that allowed me to find Distant Drumming as it was a recommendation on eMusic.
It took one spin to become enamored with this infectious album. It sounds as if the two principle songwriters, Erik Philbrook and Alan Walker, spent a weekend delving into vast record collections for inspiration. You'll hear everything from The Kinks, Squeeze, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello as well as some comparisons to newer acts like Sam Champion, The Long Winters and Wilco.
The 10 songs flow with ease and purpose making this more than just a random collection of tunes. My favorites include the reflective "Good Year For A Change," the lounge song "Becoming," and the poignant "Water Falling Down." They offer a brilliant closer in the alt-country number, "Wake Up Your Heart." Not enough good things to say about this gem. Just go download it."—Hear Ya
"This New York City-based band play instantly memorable, guitar-driven pop music. The songs, all group originals, swim around your head after just one play through. "Pop" has become a much maligned musical genre, but here we have a band that gives back "pop" the integrity that has been eroded over the years. What we have here are pop songs for adult listeners, clothed in rich, yet not overdone, musical arrangements with a nod towards such classic bands as the Turtles, the Sutherland Brothers, the Byrds, Squeeze and even the Jayhawks. Highlights include the rich, evocative "Becoming," the hand-clapping "The Day I Found My Hands" and the slower, more dramatic "Good Year For A Change."—Maverick Magazine (UK)
"This is seriously mature pop; intelligent lyrics with depth, breadth and meaning, grown-up melodies and brilliantly conceived catchy choruses...a magnificently put-together album of quite exceptional songs delivered with true professionalism and breathtaking proficiency."—www.toxicpete.co.uk
"The Brilliant Mistakes are well known for their eclectic tastes, which once again reveal themselves on Distant Drumming. Known for their fondness for Motown and 60's British pop singles, they cleverly fuse those styles bringing forth catchy, melodic pop and rock, with elements of Crosby Stills Nash and Young in the vocal harmony and melody departments. Take the opening song, 'The Day I Found My Hands.' This lush country-tinged gem has jangly guitars and rolling acoustic guitar with a genuine pop element which has splashes of The Traveling Wilburys. Alan Walker's country lilt owes much to Neil Young on sunny foot-tapping belter 'Monday Morning,' and again on rugged rocker 'Time In The Night,' a tale of longing and confusion. The strangest fusion here is 'Let's Pretend' where they give a massive nod to The Beatles and My Morning Jacket—curiously, the blend works to perfection."—Elly Roberts, http://www.allgigs.co.uk
"The Brilliant Mistakes' charming Distant Drumming grafts Daniel Johnston's demented pop sensibilities to the likeable faux-Americana stomp of Okkervil River, resulting in one of the sweetest records of the year so far. It is the sound of 100 indie record collections being perused and re-interpreted by some guys who cared more about pop music than you'd believe. Fuck it, go buy this record."—Will Metcalfe, www.subba-cultcha.com/
Distant Drumming is an intriguing collection of well-crafted rock songs with a healthy twangy bent reminiscent of similar efforts by Neil Young, Teenage Fanclub, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Wilco and The Jayhawks. The title track is an absolute gem and recalls early 70s Beach Boys!"—powerofpop.com
"One of the best adult pop rock records of the year so far. From start to finish, Distant Drumming is a fantastic album bursting with sweet pop gems. Walker and Philbrook each demonstrate a keen ear for the hook. The resulting ear candy has the soul of the Jayhawks and the pop sensibility of Matthew Sweet."—snobsmusic.net
"A smart and hooky rock album. Fans of Crowded House, Elvis Costello & The Attractions and Candy Butchers ought to take note."—dailyvault.com
"Bands like this don't come along every day. There's an Eagles-like quality here that encompasses their gorgeous harmonies, strong melodic sense and ability to tell a story within a song. 'The Day I Found My Hands' is an optimistic look at the world through the eyes of a child. This song is genius."—Wildy's World
"Sometimes happy, sometimes bittersweet, always catchy. The album will take you to small towns where time seems to pass slowly and the days are full of sun and blue skies."<—Chaotisch Und Charmant
"Every single lyric of every one of the ten songs on Distant Drumming is filled with strong emotions. Sounds emerging glorious instruments—Fenders, Rhodes and Hammond B3—drink from the inexhaustible fountain of American alt-country. The result is surprisingly fresh, and their extraordinary writing ability takes care of the rest."—underthetangerinetree.blogspot.com
"What makes a good pop song? Easy. A great hook. The Brilliant Mistakes, have made an album that are chock full of them, from top to bottom, from beginning to end."—Imagine Echoes
"NYC's The Brilliant Mistakes are a bit of a hybrid—ranging from Costello/Squeeze-like pop to Jayhawks-like Americana and all points in between. Whatever the underlying sound, their tunes reveal an assured songcraft that makes Distant Drumming a special release, and they even have Mike Viola helping out on a couple of tracks."—absolutepowerpop.blogspot.com
"A fantastic album full of songwriting a la The Beatles, Crowded House, Elvis Costello. This is an album to pull out when you need a pick-me-up or when you want to take a drive with the windows down. You can't help but play it over and over."—elfslut (via LiveJournal)
"Dumb Luck's title proves prophetic; the album's a keeper....The sparkling arrangements and clever sad-sack lyrics of love-me-or-leave-me anthems 'Stupid Love Song' (Ben Folds meets pre-rot Steely Dan) and 'The Girl You Left Behind' (A Squeeze-like janglepopper) suggest Walker and Philbrook may have a side career as tunesmiths for other pop stylists beckoning."—Fred Mills, Harp Magazine
"I'm a sucker for a pretty girl or a good pop hook draped with velvet harmonies. Not sure if the boys of The Brilliant Mistakes have pretty girlfriends, but they sure have the hooks. Shove some Wilco/Jayhawks into old Squeeze and you get an idea of these guys. Producer Lincoln Schleifer has done a fine job on their new CD Dumb Luck. I think I'll play it for pretty gal."—The Village Voice
"They took their name from an Elvis Costello song, but Brooklyn's
Brilliant Mistakes copped a few other things from the bespectacled punk-pop
icon: a knack for dispensing restlessly catchy hooks, a clever turn of
phrase and frothy, piano-driven pop with heart, soul, and smarts."—Jonathan Perry, The Boston
Make no mistake: The NYC-based Brilliant Mistakes are the kind of unpretentious, no-nonsense roots-pop band that flies under the radar (while the critics fawn) before—BAM!—"suddenly" making it big. Your chance to catch them in a small venue happens on February 12, when they play in the cozy confines of Bill's Bar. TBM are touring behind their impossiblycatchy Dumb Luck album. We guarantee that you won't be disappointed by this show.—Stuff @ Night, Boston Phoenix
"I love the Brilliant Mistakes. While they are certainly influenced by overseas artists like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe,they have tapped into the American sound of bands like The Jayhawks and Wilco. Singer Alan Walker's voice reminds me of Karl Wallinger from World Party. But enough with the comparisons.... this band has both the songwriting and the sound to stand on their own. They've got terrific melodies and songs."—Aimsel Ponti, Portland Press Herald
"A heady mix that captures the joy and emotion of timeless, classic
pop songwriting. Their tunes stick in the mind long after the CD has stopped
spinning."—Lucky Clark, The Morning Sentinel (Augusta, Maine)
"Hook-laden and harmony driven tunes....Alan Walker and Erik Philbrook have a chemistry on par with many of the great songwriting/harmony teams along the lines of Difford and Tilbrook, Lennon and McCartney and Jagger and Richards."—Todd Mack, WKZE-FM, Massachusetts
" Influenced by Elvis Costello's songwriting style, this quartet
delivers tender melodies and thoughtful songs...mellow and driving at
the same time...nice tension between the melodies and the rhythm section."—Soundcheck
Magazine (live review from Manchester NH show)
"They sound a bit like Dan Wilson on Semisonic singing songs by Neil
" Pop or powerpop, if you will, richly concentrated yet slim and
basic at the same time....consistently melodious. The country touch that
appears off and on along with the strong harmonies (here's another name
that comes to mind—The Jayhawks) reveals the band's American origin.
Continues where its debut CD All Hands and the Cook left off.
There is little lacking in this delicious sampling full of love songs."—altcountry.nl (Amsterdam)
"One of those deceptive records, the kind that creeps up on you unawares...With the piano taking lead, obvious comparisons could be made with Ben Folds Five and Joe Jackson, both entirely fairly....The Brilliant Mistakes also incorporate rootsy Americana influences like The Jayhawks—most noticeably on the album's opening cut Stupid Love Song—or even hints of soul on songs like Crawl Back and She's No Angel. Alan Walker's slightly reedy, nasal voice...has an undeniable charm that suits the material. The Brilliant Mistakes...know how to knit a catchy tune to a smart lyric."—Geraint Jones, Comes with a Smile, Hinah.com
"TBMs make upbeat, catchy piano pop with big choruses, neat guitar
hooks and a crackling rhythm section....There are moments of chaotic,
glinting pop—such as 'Crawl Back', with it’s proper rock n roll
shakedown, or 'Feed the Elephant', with it’s beautiful keyboard
lead and sensitive vocal."—Americana-uk.com
"Pure pop songs a la Squeeze or Elvis Costello, driven by infectious hooks and intelligent lyrics. The entire album is solid....It will put a bounce in your step and give you hope for the future. Try 'Stupid Love Song'—reminiscent of Ben Folds in his more subdued moments, not stupid at all; 'Crawl Back' grabs you immediately and stays catchy throughout; 'Line of Battle'—heart-tugger of plaintive vocals and gentle piano, plus string quartet; 'What Will They Write on Your Stone' rocks harder, more Kinks-style; 'Clear to Me Now'—nice harmonies, features Bob Dylan bandmember Larry Campbell on pedal steel and banjo."—Zookeeper Online, KZSU, Stanford University
"Feed the Elephant talks about one night stands as the strong songwriting
and music comes to the fore a la the Odds or XTC.....The title track saunters
along just as brilliantly....An Everly Brothers approach on 'Clear to
Me Now' is excellent—a pair in harmony over another Jayhawks-like
style of tune. Heck, even Joe Jackson can be discerned on the quirky but
head bobbing 'That Dance'. On the whole, it takes more than just dumb
luck to have such pop smarts."—PopMatters
"Philbrook and Walker have put together the sort of recipe that would
impress a world-class chef, mixing the roots rock of the '60s and '70s
with a distinct power-pop spice, and then tossing in a bit of classic
piano flavor just for kicks."—Metroland Weekly,
The Boston Globe
Pookie Radio, David Stacy
New York Runner (Publication of the NY Road Runners
The New York Post — Must CD
The Big Takeover