steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

State Shirt

"Don't Die" CD

Los Fucking Angeles Records

Genres: rock, epic rock

band website

Jan 3 - 9 2005

Don't Die is the type of album you can only enjoy if you let yourself get into it.  It has a sort of mainstream rock feel (think Radiohead crossed with whatever emo alt rock bands are popular now), but many of the songs are surprisingly melodic ("Straw Man," "Highway") and entertainingly original.  State Shirt loves to mess around with strange sound effects, including beatboxing, scratching, and any number of silly vocal effects - surprisingly, these unique inclusions really work here, making for a remarkably cohesive and personal album.

"Highway" is a song that particularly caught my attention - I remember it from the band's earlier New Planet EP, where it was a definite standout.  It has a brooding melody and a remarkably strong atmosphere; for some reason it reminds me of a darker and less poppy version of Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing."

The key to many of these songs is the electronic element - aside from State Shirt's trademark sound samples, the music is often run on digitally-enhanced beats, which sound crisp and clear instead of contrived and tinny.

Most of these songs are particularly enjoyable, though some fall through the cracks.  Every once in awhile you'll find something too bland or forgettable ("A Variation on Two"), though more successful tunes like "It Is a Shame My Binoculars Don't Work at Night" and "Not a Kid Anymore" seem to balance this problem out.

There is enough melody on Don't Die to make it a successful album for anyone in need of a little epic alternative rock.  It also isn't as contrived as one may expect, usually embellishing in drama rather than angst and whininess.  As far as radio-friendly rock music goes, you could do a lot worse than State Shirt.


Fun Fact: Many of Don't Die's songs were made for competitions, which are frequent contests in which a song title is provided, and a group of bands compete to make the best song using it (with a winner decided by votes).  State Shirt's "Straw Man" and "Back to the Airplanes" won their respective songfights.

Also, State Shirt's biography is an interesting tale that involves many breakups and reencounters with his musical craft.  His first introduction to recording music:

"Bought a keyboard in 5th grade, brought it to school and got made fun of. Went back home and recorded 1000 goofy seven second long songs on portable cassette player."

State Shirt, if you're reading this - Indieville implores you to release these seven second songs on CD!

Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 11 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2004]