The Victory Of Miss Friday How To Bury Your Heart And The Five Songs You Died For

Nico Stai

Independent release, 2008

http://www.myspace.com/nicostai

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/23/2009

I love the radio. Even with thousands of songs on my Ipod, that handy little Genius tool, and myriad possibilities for mix CDs that would guarantee me never having to flip stations and hear cheesy lite-rock or radio DJs waxing passionate about Cheetos, I still like to take my chances with what radio has got to offer. Sometimes this just ends in stumbling onto “Jack And Diane” or “Hotel California” for the thousandth time; other times, I happen to tune in to stuff like the last minute of “Scream,” the opener to the latest EP from Los Angeles’ own Nico Stai. It was a one-off moment, but there was something in Stai’s simple yet earnest lyrics and his stirring vocals -- rising from a thin falsetto to a silky, smoky full-voice to backing “Yeah yeah yeahs” reminiscent of Steven Tyler -- that was irresistible. “You’re the one for me,” Stai repeats as cymbals and a brass section crash around him, creating a positively buoyant (and not too sentimental) love song as well as a solid intro to the Stai universe.

my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Victory Of Miss Friday How To Bury Your Heart And The Five Songs You Died For (a bit of a mouthful, yes), a five song EP released in November, comes on the heels of May’s Dead Pony EP, while a full-length, PARK Los ANGELES, came out in 2006. All three discs have been self-released, though he and his former band Tinpaco were signed with Warner before Stai went solo, completing a record that ultimately never saw the light of day. From there, he fleshed out his acoustic sound with guitarist Jeff Evans, Sean Stentz, and Josh Mervin, who provide subtly full but flourished backing to Stai’s resonant poppish rock songs.

The entire twenty minutes of this disc pass by in a sweep of melodic guitars, shambling drums and strangely catchy beats despite there not really being any discernable choruses to lodge in your head. Stai also proves himself gifted with the ability to pen spare, straight-to-the-heart lyrics; take “12 Thousand Years,” whose refrain “You’ve got one thing in your heart / But another thing is what you do with it” is understatedly aching precise, while the song’s closing line, “Tuesday is ripping your heart apart / There’s not a God that can save you from the mess you’re in now” comes slipping out of the speakers over a ringing guitar line and pulsing drums, seeming able to touch some raw nerve.

Meanwhile, “The Skies Over Your Head” is fizzing below the surface with energy and thoughts of escape: “All the things you can dream / Well, they’re not even yours to keep / Wake up, wake up, we’ve got to find a way out of this,” Stai sings in a langorous murmur, the drums unwavering and Evans’ guitar coming in clipped tones throughout until it finally swerves loose at the end, seeing him navigating a subtle, lovely solo. Closer “Masters And Whispers” is armed with similarly tuneful and intriguing instrumentation, Stai’s enveloping vocals accompanied by shimmering guitar, flurries of hand-claps and some breathy, almost ominous backing vocals that echo past the mournful string section.

Stai has garnered comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, Bright Eyes and Leonard Cohen, but really, he’s a little bit of a lot of good things. The Victory Of Miss Friday How To Bury Your Heart And The Five Songs You Died For may not exactly reach the jarring pinnacle of epic-ness that its title sets out (but really, what could?), but this batch of five songs is a suitably stunning offering from a talent to watch.

Rating: B+

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