CityBeat Magazine: Mike Tittel’s rich, sublime Pop Rock project plays MOTR Saturday to honor its third album in four years
In early September, New Sincerity Works — the project spearheaded by veteran Cincinnati musician Mike Tittel — issued Wonder Lust, the band’s third full-length release since its origins in 2013. While three albums in four years suggests a uniquely prolific pace, the abundance of New Sincerity Works material isn’t indicative of a haphazard “release every scrap of music conceived” vanity project. The opposite is true, in fact — all three of Tittel’s New Sincerity Works efforts contain high-quality, powerfully melodic Rock songs. Each self-recorded long-player is also well thought out and carefully constructed as an “album,” as opposed to merely collections of unrelated songs.
Tittel — who made his name as a drummer for eminent, critically heralded Power Pop artists like Cincinnati’s Roger Klug and the Bay Area’s Loud Family (led by Game Theory’s Scott Miller) — has also noticeably grown as a writer, arranger and bandleader across his three albums, which is saying a lot considering how impressive the songs were on 2013’s 44, the largely solo New Sincerity Works debut that introduced Tittel as a formidable “new” Pop/Rock songwriting talent (while he’d written songs for years, this project was the first time he’d put together a public presentation for his music). Where 44 had a “full band feel” (he formed a group to perform live after the release), Wonder Lust has a confidence and cohesion that seems to reflect the current lineup of New Sincerity Works, which features guitarist/singer Klug, drummer Greg Tudor (who plays bass in Klug’s band), legendary local bassist Bob Nyswonger (foundational member of a Cincinnati Pop Rock juggernauts like psychodots, The Raisins and The Bears), singer/keyboardist Lauren Bray and guitarist Mike Landis, another veteran who has performed in local groups like Promenade and The Great Modern. It says a lot about Tittel’s songs that he has been able to enlist such a murderers’ row of players for New Sincerity Works.
Tittel’s creative evolution goes hand-in-hand with the thematic development advanced across the band’s three albums. Using songwriting as catharsis amid the kind of life changes that often lead to a “mid-life crisis,” Tittel told CityBeat after 2015’s Nowadays album that his three full-length statements were emerging as a “trilogy,” with the first album confronting grief and the second album representing someone of a reflective, uncertain-but-hopeful rebuilding period (with eyes on the past, present and future). Wonder Lust seems to be the resolve, showcasing a humble acceptance, comfort and appreciation for where life has gone with wisdom, grace and empathy.
While the conceptual themes add an extra compelling layer to New Sincerity Works, fans of catchy, smart Pop Rock can dive in anywhere and find much to enjoy — no “big picture” context required. Wonder Lust is devoid of clunkers, but highlights include the warm, twinkling opener “I’ve Got You,” the rollicking “Just Like Vapor,” which shimmies and shines like an outtake from Big Star’s sessions for the classic #1 Record (albeit with swirling synth squiggles from a later era, a recurrent texture on the album), and the unforgettable title track, which is as good of a new Pop Rock song as you’ll hear in 2017. Wonder Lust revels in the recalibrating, resurrective power of song and melody. New Sincerity Works’ albums come by their timeless nature effortlessly, eschewing forced of-the-moment tricks or fads for a resonating emotional honesty that makes them feel less like “product” and more like an urgent Pop manifesto.
New Sincerity Works celebrates Wonder Lust’s release this Saturday with a free performance at MOTR Pub (1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, motrpub.com). Wake the Bear — the solo project of former Promenade frontman Scott Cunningham — comes out of hibernation to open the show at 10 p.m.
For more on New Sincerity Works, visit newsincerityworks.com. Wonder Lust is available through the site as a download and it can also be ordered on vinyl and CD (the album can also be downloaded on many of the major digital retail sites and streamed on the big streamers, like Spotify and Soundcloud).