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CD Review: The City On Film – American Diary

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When I first heard The City On Film was Robert Nanna’s solo project, many thoughts came rushing in to my mind. I was wondering if it would sound exactly like Hey Mercedes or Braid, then I wondered if it would be a one-man acoustic side project a la Dashboard Confessional. Either way, I was anxious to hear it. Both of my suspicions were correct — and then some.

The City On Film began as Nanna’s creative outlet between tours in 1998, and finally produced a full-length released in 2005 — In Formal Introduction. Later that year, Nanna gathered up some friends from an up-and-coming Seattle head-turner, Minus The Bear, as a backing band and released this emo/rock, six track gem we call American Diary.

If you are a fan of the rockier tunes that Nanna cranked out as the front man of Braid and Hey Mercedes, then you will love “Pony’s Last Track” and “You’re Gonna Need That Patience Soon.” They are a little “quieter” than Braid and Hey Mercedes tracks, but they still have Nanna’s soothing voice delivered over catchy, hook-filled melodic rock.

On the other hand, there’s the track’s opener, “Mary, I’m Ready”, lead by its lo-fi recording, acoustic guitar picking, and straight up depressing vocals. The album’s closer, ironically named “Conclusion”, is an identical instrumental version of “Mary, I’m Ready.” The subtraction of vocals is replaced with a piano, and it allows you to hear the breaking glass and dog barks in the background. These remind me a lot of Great Lake Swimmers tracks, or other various lo-fi acoustic indie albums containing random background noises.

American Diary is an excellent title for Nanna’s debut on Redder Records, as it progresses past his defined sound from previous bands. There are hints of other distinct American musical genres, most specifically Americana/Country. The upbeat, very countryish “Astray! Astray!” is the song that will put a smile on your face when listening to this EP. Although the rock-oriented tracks are energetic, this is a country-influenced pop song at its best!

The track “Well, It Goes Like This” reminds me a lot of an old, ‘50s classic, in the vain of The Platters’ “Earth Angel.” Maybe it’s just me, but I can imagine this being played at a sock-hop themed prom this May, and most high school seniors not even noticing it was recorded in 2005. Maybe I’m not so crazy, as Nanna’s newest project is learning and recording his top 100 favorite songs. The tracks he has already recorded can be downloaded through The City On Film My Space page. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a Nanna-version of “Earth Angel” up on there soon!

The City On Film has put forth a great EP for Redder Records, and any Braid or Hey Mercedes fan should definitely pick this up. I am very glad to hear Nanna’s voice in varying and refreshing songs, and I expect this indie staple to keep supplying me with my dose of sincere musicianship in the immediate future.

Fans of Hey Mercedes, Braid, The Get Up Kids, The New Amsterdams, The Promise Ring, Hot Rod Circuit, Bright Eyes, Cursive, The Smiths, Mineral, and late 90/early 2000 emo will love this album.

For more information, MP3’s, and tour dates, check out Redder Records

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