#4 – SHONE – HEAT THING [spotify]

(feat. track – “Bestial” [spotify])

I wrote a piece earlier this year focusing on album release strategies, which was in part spurred on by the viral campaign behind Heat Thing, the debut album from Brian Lane (Brand New) and Andrew Accardi’s (Robbers) Shone:

“Be Patient. Heatthing.com.” That simple, cryptic tweet, issued from a succession of artist Twitter accounts (including Thrice, Manchester Orchestra, Balance & Composure and Vinnie Caruana) on December 21st, launched the scene into the most frenzied viral marketing campaign in recent memory. Through a series of eerie videos, backmasked sound clips, and even mailed letters, the secret missive was gradually decoded over the next few weeks — Heat Thing was the title for the debut album by a band called Shone, which appeared to include Brand New’s Brian Lane as well as Andrew Accardi, vocalist for Robbers and brother of Brand New guitar-slinger Vin. There’s no question that Shone’s campaign brought a flood of attention that the band would never have garnered otherwise. But as the music finally emerged, it quickly became apparent that Shone sounded nothing like Brand New or their friends-in-virality, and when Heat Thing (the album) didn’t match the high expectations that stemmed from Heat Thing (the marketing campaign), that tide began to turn against the band. At this point, it’s not clear whether the elaborate effort was even a net positive for Shone.

Delivering Just What You Need: Album Release Strategies via PropertyOfZack

What I didn’t discuss is just how freakin’ much I loved this coolly-received art rock concept album, from the first listen. Heat Thing is a wildly creative swirl of an album, as twisted and tortured as its main character, an anonymous man who has been tempted into some awful deeds and now awaits his judgment.

Singer Andrew Accardi’s vocals range from barked chants to perverse muttering, from full-throated bellows to smooth crooning; they befit the frayed psyche of the character he plays. Meanwhile, musically, composer/songwriter Brian Lane and producer Mike Sapone pack the album with surprises – the trip hop-like stutters of opener “Piano Wire Number 12”, the swooning cello that rides below Accardi’s falsetto in “Kin”, the dueling sax and fuzzed-out guitar that solo their way through the formless “Defender 237”, the sea-shanty backing chorus of “Baby Shakes”. The choices all seem artful, purposeful, and better still, they’ve chosen right darn near every time.

Heat Thing is also not as out-and-out bizarre as it’s been made out to be. (I hate to think of what will become of the kids who freaked out over “Baby Shakes” when they finally catch up to the Talking Heads and Oingo Boingo.) It’s creepy, catchy,unpredictable, but most of all, it’s fun – a jazzy, unconventional set that, thanks to some big singalong hooks, doesn’t alienate.

I had the good fortune to see Shone’s (very good) debut live performance in February – a show that sold out not only before the album was released, but before the band members names were even announced. They’ve since been sporadically active. I hope that Lane hasn’t felt too burned by the response to continue exploring rock’s weirder corners. Shone may have done themselves in with their own insurmountable hype, but as I wrote following that night, “I hope I get the chance to shout “earthquake! milkshake!” at least one more time. I suspect the crowd at the Mercury Lounge tonight would agree.”