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News & Reviews

unclumsy record reviews: Tittel Turns out an Ardent, Important Second Effort

Michael Tittel

Another excellent review of Nowadays from the kind man at unclumsy!

unclumsy The Aubernaire

The Auburnaire

Tittel Turns out an Ardent, Important Second Effort 
In 1988 the Cincinnati band The Auburnaires released Bedtime Stories, on the French label, New Rose. I didn't understand then and don't understand now how, pre-internet, a label based in France and a singular post-punk, funk mash-up from Cincinnati found each other but I'm more and more convinced these days that good art – even rock music – seeks its own path, like water telegraphing across a rafter before it finds its way down your interior wall on the other side of the real leak. 

If you search eBay for that Auburnaires vinyl record today, you'll find that most copies are available from England. So, it was an import in its day – out of my price range at Everybody's Records in Cincinnati when I was a kid – and it's an import today, further away from Cincinnati as it ever was and right at home there, I suspect. 

I bring this up as I had the good fortune to work on the liner notes for the latest New Sincerity Works record, Nowadays, this past summer and hearing it played back now – all lively and compressed and perfectly mixed by Mike Landis and, especially, as a counterpoint to their first record – I'm certain it's destined for and deserving of a bigger home outside of Ohio, too. 

Mike Tittel, the songwriter behind New Sincerity Works, spent time as the touring drummer for the legendary underground outfit The Loud Family in the 1990s, built a studio and a home and a family in the Queen City, then got divorced, tied himself up in personal and career knots, tried to figure himself out, and still managed to assemble a dream team for V2.0 of his band: Bob Nyswonger on bass, Roger Klug and Tom White on guitar, Greg Tudor on drums, to say the very least. By 2014, he had issued the critically acclaimed 44 which chronicled a particularly difficult time in his life, falling apart in real time while a crowd of a friends inched him forward at turns, congratulating him either for the honesty of the emotions at the surface or for simply surviving the crash landing. 

His new record, though, catches Tittel at an absolute creative peak, confident in his forward direction and having sharpened his songwriting craftsmanship to a fine point. It brims with a cautious hope from start to finish that edges the listener from one track to the next in a way only really great albums can. From "Dreams Worth Keeping" to "Champion" to "Learning to Walk, " Tittel walks the listener through something that feels a lot like redemption yet is careful to swap out any high-minded preachiness for an influx of urgent, perfect drumming, an unmistakable ‘72 Telecaster, and beautifully washy keyboards. 

Before you know it, just five or six songs in, you’ve wandered through the best Side A of any record from a Cincinnati-based band since The Afghan Whigs' 1998 masterwork Gentlemen. Trust me on this, I know my shit. 

To wit: The first video from the record (for the title track) starts in the expansive, stark black and white landscape of Iceland before landing back in Cincinnati and falling away at the end with "Don't Walk" countdown timer of a downtown street sign. It’s a perfectly executed window into the rest of the album: half-home, half-away-from home, mid-step, hope mashed with resignation. 

With 2014’s 44, Tittel covered the first two stages of grief: attack and decay. Nowadays, it’s clear, is his effort to sustain. In the course of assembling the songs and band that make up this record, Tittel has made an album for the ages, no matter if it ends up in a cut-out-bin in France, in your dreams, erased over on a cassette, or spinning around on your turntable. Don’t miss out. 

– Jon Roketenetz

Nowadays on Pure Pop Radio Review

Michael Tittel

New Sincerity Works | Nowadays 

Our old friend Mike Tittel returns, fellow travelers Roger Klug, Bob Nyswonger, Mike Landis, Greg Tudor and Tom White in tow, with New Sincerity Works’ second album, another sparkling collection of melodic gems. “The Upside of Being Down” is a powerful rocker performed with energetic swagger; the gorgeous “Our Room Shares a Door” sports a delicious melody and beautiful harmonies. In addition to these two songs, we’re playing “Dreams Worth Keeping” and “Lips Miss Talking” in rotation.

Review here.

 

Sincerity Now. CityBeat December 2015

Michael Tittel

 

Sincerity Now!

Mike Tittel’s New Sincerity Works is poised for enshrinement in the pantheon of Cincinnati Pop

BY BRIAN BAKER · DECEMBER 16TH, 2015 · MUSIC

Mike Tittel doesn’t really fit the bill of a blossoming Pop/Rock icon. He’s soft spoken, self-effacing and unassuming, but, like the soft-spoken, self-effacing, unassuming and wildly talented singer/songwriters before him, Tittel saves his “Big Statements” for the studio and stage. And the statements on the first two albums with his relatively new band, New Sincerity Works — last year’s 44 and the recently released Nowadays — are big enough to withstand scrutiny beyond the Cincinnati scene; reviews have noted similarities to Big Star, Paul Westerberg and Guided By Voices.

Still, the examination should start locally, and by that yardstick Tittel and NSW carve an impressive notch. With a penchant for clever wordplay, ringing guitar anthemics and Beatlesque melodies, Tittel is near the bullseye that local notables like The Raisins (and their subsequent solo/group projects), Roger Klug and Brian Lovely and the Secret have all hit over the years with supernatural precision and power.


It’s little surprise then that Klug and Raisins/etc. bassist Bob Nyswonger appear on both NSW discs and occasionally grace the band’s live configuration; Tittel played drums in Klug’s Power Trio. This shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that NSW’s greatness is the result of proximity and association; the band’s excellence is self-evident, at least to outside listeners.

“I’m not totally sure, but I think people like playing with me,” Tittel says over coffee at Sidewinder in Northside. “I don’t get a lot of feedback, but they’re there when I call them, so I think that’s the feedback.”


Although sonic and personnel similarities link 44 and Nowadays, Tittel notes that, even with the short gap separating the releases, there are structural and philosophical differences between the albums.


“The interesting thing for me is that both records were written and recorded spur of the moment, 44 a little more so,” Tittel says. “Literally, from the first song through 80 percent of the recording took less than three weeks. With 44, I didn’t even know I was making a record; I was just doing it. 44 was so urgent that (Klug) had my entire microphone collection at his house and he was out of town, so I went to Buddy Rogers and bought a Shure 57 and recorded the entire album with one microphone. But it was more about doing it and less about making a record.”

Tittel tapped into a similar vibe when he began writing Nowadays. Just after the first of the year, Tittel bought an acoustic guitar, which sparked the new material.
“I took it out of the case and all of a sudden a bunch of songs came out,” Tittel says. “I wrote 24 songs in January, and I realized that I really enjoy urgency and writing songs so quickly they can be nothing more than a document of a point in time.”

Tittel had the epiphany that he should start a band after 44 — his live coterie typically involves Tom White, Greg Tudor and Jenni Cox, with sporadic help from Nyswonger and Klug — so his talent pool was in place. He’d also upgraded his home recording rig to more effectively document his work, so Nowadays followed in fairly short order.
“I recorded 20 songs in February,” Tittel says. “Most of the songs are just me, then I tend to bring in better talent where I know they can make an impact. The guys I’m playing with have got other things going on, and as much as I would love this to be the band that tracks it live and reworks arrangements, there’s just no time. Everyone’s got kids and jobs, but it seems to be working pretty well.”

Nowadays also differs from 44 in its lyrical focus. While NSW’s debut dealt with the emotions surrounding Tittel’s self-described mid-life crisis (career doubt, divorce and the wrenching breakup of a subsequent relationship), Nowadays explores the territory beyond that tumult.

“Picking up a guitar and singing was literally salvation,” Tittel says. “I remembered Eric Clapton and how one of his children died tragically, and he wrote ‘Tears in Heaven.’ He talked about cathartic music, and I thought, ‘How could creating a hit song possibly be cathartic?’ But coming out of this whole thing, I get it. Creativity will save you. I have a profound respect for the creative process.

“The theme of Nowadays is being more OK with things than perhaps I was a year earlier and being in the moment, knowing you can’t change the past and the future hasn’t happened.”

As noted, Tittel’s experience, going back to the ’80s, is primarily as a drummer. After a romantic breakup in the ’90s, he relocated to California and became the touring beatkeeper for the late Scott Miller’s Loud Family, a saga unto itself. So the very act of fronting a band is difficult for a guy who’s used to looking at everyone’s backs.
“I can barely tune a guitar, so it’s a challenge and out of my comfort zone,” Tittel says. “Playing a guitar and singing at the same time is challenging for me. I was surprised that people liked these songs, and I was surprised that I liked them, so I made this band — my idea of what a band could be — from my little universe of friends.”


Tittel is already working toward his third New Sincerity Works album, which he sees as the completion of a connected series. The albums’ themes are reinforced by the package design which utilizes found photography that Tittel has come across as the co-owner of a local advertising agency. Tittel is also getting back into his own photographic pursuits; the new NSW video for the album’s title track was partially filmed while he was shooting in Iceland, and he has a photo book slated for publication next year (which could include a CD of complementary music).

“I met this guy, Dave Bell, he’s one of the chairmen of this marketing agency I work with, and he’s kind of an ex-Mad Men guy, really sweet and really smart,” he says. “I was kind of bummed that Nowadays wasn’t my happy record, and then Dave kind of laid out the path of grief to change, and it occurred to me, when he was talking, why Nowadays is what it is. 44 was grief for sure, Nowadays is probably my neutrality, kind of OK, kind of not. I got it in my head that maybe I’m making some kind of trilogy here. That went into the artwork decisions; I started with white, this one was gray, the third album will be black or rainbow, so when you put them on a shelf, you’ll get this gradation. Thematically, that’s where it’s all headed.”

For NEW SINCERITY WORKS music, show dates and more, visit newsincerityworks.com.

 

Article as seen in CityBeat here.

Nowadays in CityBeat's Year in Review

Michael Tittel

NEW SINCERITY WORKS – NOWADAYS

Earning comparisons to Big Star, Paul Westerberg and Guided By Voices for his debut New Sincerity Works, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mike Tittel carved an impressive notch. With a penchant for clever wordplay, ringing guitar anthemics and Beatlesque melodies, with this year’s Nowadays, Tittel hits near the bullseye that local Pop Rock notables like The Raisins (and their subsequent solo/group projects), Roger Klug and Brian Lovely and the Secret have all hit over the years with supernatural precision and power. (BB)

http://citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-34302-the_year_in_local_recordings.html

REVIEW: unclumsy "The Weather at Fruit Hill

Michael Tittel

Unclumsy reviews "44". Many thanks to Jon Roketenetz for a thoughtful and quirky write up. We'll take the name drops of The Replacements and Ron Wood with a smile. Check it out. 

http://www.unclumsy.com/2015/01/the-weather-at-fruit-hill.html

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Weather at Fruit Hill

New Sincerity Drops The Pretense 

44, the excellent new album by the guys and gal in New Sincerity Works, has had it's share of glowing reviewsand accolades. A look-no-hands-barred open letter documenting a raft of heartbreak and written big as a billboard, 44 shoves songwriter Mike Tittel out from behind the kit for the first time in a long time. 

 

I won't drag you through a full review – because I don't know how to write one – and because you'd do better to own it and judge for yourself. If you live in Southern Ohio, it's already required listening or been duly banned by your local municipality anyhow. 

Here's the true low-down on three important tunes: 

1. "I'm Not The Problem" is as good as any problem-based song I've ever run into and that includes a fairly heavy emotional connection to Jackson Browne's "My Problem is You" as well as The Replacement's "My Little Problem," which I've witnessed performed live as a duet between Paul Westerberg and Dan Baird.
That's how good. 

2. "As If We Are 24" features lyrics intricate enough I'm still somewhat afraid to unpack it fully. The second guitar on the chorus doesn't sound like Keith Richards, it sounds like Ron Wood. 

3. "Less Me, Less You" – the sleeper – drops us in a room filled with "shiny pants" (favorite line: "hey, best friend with the hillbilly dance") but reminds us how easy it is to plug the pinholes of our lives with criticism of others. It's not me, it's you. Wait, I mean it's me, not you. 

Mike Tittel, the engineer behind this entire episode, lives on Fruit Hill and spent the first part of his career as a photographer, so you'd not be surprised to learn that the graphic elements shine on the packaging, too. The cover sings. It's the San Francisco you should know, not the one you do. And, the typography sings, as well, though certainly the two 4s should face away from each other. If you buy the record, Tittel promises to lob other visual elements at you via text message. 

And he delivers. 

In the band's promo poster below, half of the message is absolutely plain to see: The bass player looks like a keyboard player. The drummer insists on wearing a hat indoors. One guitar player won't put down his soda, the other won't tell us what's so funny. Tittel can't even look you in the eye. 

 

The the other half ain't so obvious, though, leaving the curious wanna-be fan with more uncomfortable questions than not. Who is this group? Are they knowable? Do I wantto know them? Are the broken aparts alone ever greater than a sadly tethered sum? Can they put down their Kinks covers long enough to make another record? 

We'll find out well before 55 if the weather at Fruit Hillholds. 

Cue the handclaps right after O'Callaghan's solo. If you haven't heard this album yet, go hear it. Or, go watch the video about the making of the record. Or, go find fifteen songs you never knew you had in you. 

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother, founder of 3VERB, and occasional musician. 

REVIEW: Pure Pop Radio

Michael Tittel

New Sincerity Works | 44 Mike Tittel, who plays drums for our longtime musical pal Roger Klug’s Power Trio, comes out of the gate swinging with a great set of songs that “showcases pop melodies that meet Americana and ’80s new wave music in a raw, emotional mashup,” according to New Sincerity Works’ website. That works for us, but we’d want to add that these songs are infused with a strong sense of honesty, too. And, we should mention, Mike sounds like a distant cousin of Alex Chilton. So, curl up with the power pop of “American Beauty Works,” the driving force of the insistent, melodic “Nowhere Ohio,” and five more top-flight songs now playing in rotation: “Desperate,” “Photographs,” “Drunk for Nothing,” “Less Me, Less You,” and “The Next Time.” Power pop for now people, we declare.

Article here.

REVIEW: WVXU Local Exposure Cincinnati, Ohio New Sincerity Works: 44

Michael Tittel

7:00  AM

TUE DECEMBER 9, 2014

New Sincerity Works: 44

44 is a very difficult number to deal with. I know because I'm there.

At 44 you're closer to 50 than you are to 30 and yet you still feel like 30 is old. Sure, you may have the kind of job where you don't have to mop up before you go home; but you also can't party until 3 am because you have to get up at 7 to get the kids on the school bus. So what do you do when you find yourself saying, 'Who am I - and how did I get here?'

If you're Mike Tittel, the creative force behind the band New Sincerity Works, you sit down and write a painfully honest album that feels like a musical version of therapy and you call it 44.

 

In Mike's own words, "The music is guitar driven alt-pop that reflects the realization that life is an uncontrollable ride." However, Tittel has chosen to take this ride with some good friends who also happen to be amazing musicians. Scattered throughout the landscape of 44 is a role-call of local artists that includes Bob Nyswonger [Bears, Psychodots], Roger Klug [Roger Klug Power Trio], Pat and Sally O'Callaghan[Beer], Bradley Skaught [The Bye Bye Blackbirds] and Todd Lipscomb [The Kentucky Struts]. 

When New Sincerity Works performs live, Tittel is joined on-stage by Jenni Cox[Godholly], Tom White [Godholly, Spiwak] and Greg Tudor [Beer]. Also included among that collection of talented artists is photographer Jack Simon, whose enigmatic imagery of two girls of indeterminate age playing "dress-up" on the curb makes for an engaging album cover and contrasts well as the only spot of color in the package design.

44 opens almost timidly, as if Mike is on his best behavior, not sure if you'll like what he has to say. Using songs like "Nowhere Ohio" and "Know Yourself," he eases you into his story - for it is a very, almost uncomfortably, personal one - and he sets the stage by explaining who he is and how he got here. Yet as raw as these emotions are, they are cloaked in delightful melodies full of multi-layered guitar tracks, up-beat rhythms and well-balanced vocal harmonies.

Almost like a blind-date - after a few tracks, once you've gotten to know each other - New Sincerity Works hits you with staggeringly beautiful and poignant pieces like "Less Me, Less You," "I'm Not the Problem" and the jangling Byrds-like poetry of "Vanishing Someone."

Everywhere throughout 44 are hints of musical influences that span the alt-pop spectrum from The Beatles to Guided by Voices. These are the tools Tittel uses to paint his self-portrait - a work of art that, when you look at it, what you tend to find is yourself staring back at you.

The culmination of the the joy, pain, laughter, tears and beer that it took to write 44 can be found in the piece "The Next Time" - an extraordinarily pointed confession of awareness and self-actualization. Even if the other 12 tracks on 44 did not exist, the message of the album would still ring true and clear based solely on the power of this single.

Like everything about growing up, 44 is merely a number, not a sentence. It is certainly not the end of the story - and I hope 44 is not the end of the music we get to hear from Mike Tittel and New Sincerity Works

Look for the album release party of New Sincerity Works' 44 coming December 13 to MOTR Pub and pick up a copy of the album for yourself from CDBaby, iTunes, Everybody's Records and Shake it Records.

REVIEW: CityBeat SPILL IT, New Sincerity Works Turns Out ‘44’

Michael Tittel

BY MIKE BREEN · DECEMBER 10TH, 2014

Dave Grohl effectively made the old joke, “What was the last thing the drummer said before getting kicked out of the band? ‘Hey, let’s try one of my songs’ ” way less funny than it once was. Now, veteran Cincinnati drummer Mike Tittel is further taking the punch out of that punchline with the release of 44, the first album from his band New Sincerity Works

The full-length is largely a solo project, with Tittel (longtime drummer in the band of local Power Pop king Roger Klug, among other projects) capably handling most bass, drums, guitar and vocal duties. He does enlist a handful of talented friends to guest on a few tracks, including Klug, psychodots bassist Bob Nyswonger and former Cincinnatian Mike Michel. Live, New Sincerity Works is Tittel, Greg Tudor, Tom White and Jenni Cox. 

Even given the extensive experience of all involved, 44 is a remarkably accomplished debut effort, with Tittel’s songwriting being the prime reason. Tittel’s Indie Pop Rock songs are infectiously melodic, while his lyrics (which seem to deal with personal middle-age observations and revelations; “44” refers to Tittel’s age when he recorded the album) and vocal skills are also impressive. The music shows influence from classic “College Rock” to some of today’s Indie Rock, resultantly adding an element of timelessness to the full-length. The unfussy production gives much of 44 a live feel, which adds a certain intimacy to the songs. 

Highlights abound on 44. Beginning with the compelling, ethereal lead-off track “Sincerely,” which floats sans drums, buoyed only by an acoustic guitar and painted with various shades of electric guitar coloring, the album moves gracefully from the Wilco-esque Pop of “Photographs” and the rumbling chime of “Know Yourself” (which is distantly reminiscent of French Indie Pop kings Phoenix) to the wistful, melancholic “As If We Are 24” and “Dreamers,” which recalls early R.E.M., The Replacements and The Smithereens.

The album was released on Dec. 9 on iTunes and CD Baby (it’s also available at local-music-friendly area retailers). The full band will make its first live appearance this Saturday to celebrate the release of 44 at MOTR Pub (1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, motrpub.com). Klug will be sitting in with the band and Mike Landis will fill in for Cox on bass. New Sincerity Works opens for Exit Verse at the free show, kicking things off at 9:30 p.m.

For more info on the project (as well as a short “making of” documentary called Nowhere Ohio), visit newsincerityworks.com

http://citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-31728-new_sincerity_works_turns_out_‘44’.html