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Graig Markel – Via Novella

Do you ever read the press release for an album and get giddy at the prospect of listening to it? There is a good chance not, since you probably don’t read press releases. Most of them are pedantic and of little value. But sometimes you read who has collaborated on the album and get your hopes up. Jeremiah Green from Modest Mouse made some sort of contribution? I love Modest Mouse! Jen Wood of the Postal Service did something unspecified? I enjoy the Postal Service and her singing has really tugged at my heart-strings. Sun Kill Moon producer, Aaron Prellwitz, mixed it? I guess I like the production that went into that band.

Via Novella, the new album by Graig Markel, was worked on by people who have done things with other bands I like; ipso facto, I will like it. Or maybe it will be boring and a tremendous struggle to write about.

There is a lot about Via Novella I should like. It has a layered acoustic sound with pianos and other instruments I personally enjoy. “Figures in the Snow” (a stand out track), blends some solid steel lap guitar playing with a string arrangement that creates an intense instrumental environment. This song grabbed my attention because other than the first song, “Black Mesa,” which is more of an overture to the album, it is the only instrumental song on the album.

It’s the vocals that I really have a problem with. On “Knives Drawn,” the combination of electric and acoustic guitar has the sonic quality of an incoming thunderstorm, but the lyrics are delivered four syllables at a time in the same sad, whispery voice Markel employs throughout the album. The whole thing has a shoegaze quality that fails to be emotionally stirring.

Markel is a talented musician who has made an utterly forgettable album. This perhaps, is a worse crime than making a really bad album. At least then it will live on in infamy. I’d bet he could do a good job scoring movie soundtracks. So no hard feelings… right?


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