Jamestown Story’s latest is just too polished for its own goodThe music on Show Me Tomorrow, as perfect as it is, is like a piece of art glass with all the imperfections smoothed out. This collection of songs has been steam-cleaned, pressed, ironed, fussed with, tinkered with, considered, reconsidered and then considered again.
By: Tony Bennett, for the News Tribune
Dane Schmidt is one of the more successful musicians to come out of Duluth in the past decade. This is demonstrable; since 2003, his band, Jamestown Story, has sold thousands of albums, played hundreds of tour dates, sold songs to shows such as “Jersey Shore” and “Dr. Phil,” and amassed more than 45,000 Facebook and Twitter followers. This is no small feat, and a lot of hustle had to be involved. Schmidt probably doesn’t get enough credit from Duluthians for this accomplishment.
These days, Schmidt calls Nashville home. He’s trying to carve out a career as a songwriter there, which probably is a great plan for a guy with his skills. He’s a tunesmith with a keen ear for detail, a true understanding of arranging and a knack for presenting a composition in a way that effectively transmits an emotion. Schmidt’s new album under the Jamestown Story name, Show Me Tomorrow, is an incredibly professional collection of music that is radio-ready, polished to a sheen and ready to set those Facebook followers atwitter.
But it’s all too much.
The music on Show Me Tomorrow, as perfect as it is, is like a piece of art glass with all the imperfections smoothed out. This collection of songs has been steam-cleaned, pressed, ironed, fussed with, tinkered with, considered, reconsidered and then considered again. Or at least it seems that way. Even if all these songs were hammered out in no time, it feels fussy. It’s a tuxedo when it should be jeans and a T-shirt.
It’s hard to describe the music. It appears that Schmidt has taken a youth spent listening to bands such as blink-182, Death Cab for Cutie and Dashboard Confessional and run those influences through an acoustic lite-rock filter, completely stripping those groups of whatever punk or indie roughness they had. Then, he takes this concoction and mixes it with John Mayer or the latest American Idol pinup from their pop-star factory. The result is Show Me Tomorrow, which is a rock album without the rock, a soul album without any soul.
One of the most troubling aspects of this album is that Schmidt has chosen to use Auto-Tune to suck all the life and humanity out of his vocals. The computer program is used here not in a fun, gonzo T-Pain way, but in a sterile, interfering way. On the whole album, Schmidt’s breathy vocals are tweaked so that no note is out of place, and, at times, the effect is used so much that he becomes a kind of whispery cyborg.
The songs themselves are strong compositions, in large part. They tend to lapse into recent-breakup cliche far too often — in “Nothing’s Forever,” Schmidt lets fly a laundry list of them: “It’s gonna get much worse before it’s gonna get better / That was then / This is now / I don’t know when / I don’t know how.”
And that’s only a small sample. Which is a shame because, at times, Schmidt comes up with a good one — in “Scarred,” he sings, “All my picture frames are facing down / ’cause I don’t have the strength to throw them out.”
Aside from the fact that he could just throw the photos and not the frames themselves away, it’s a nice image, one that is specific and evocative. It’s moments like this that give the album a little rush of blood.
It’s too bad there’s not more of them, because this is a record that lyrically isn’t afraid to show a little frustration, a little anger, a little emotion. It’s just a shame that Schmidt isn’t able to shake loose the shackles of overproduction and really plumb those depths.
If you go
Artist: Jamestown Story
Album: Show Me Tomorrow
Recorded at: Fantasy Land in Nashville, Tenn.
Produced by: Dane and Jordan Schmidt
Personnel: Dane Schmidt, Jordan Schmidt, others
Upcoming show: 5 p.m. today, Varsity Theatre, Minneapolis
Tickets: quietdrivemusic.com, $20.