Bacharach and David. Goffin and King. Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. When it comes to sublime, three-minute pop songs, the '60s hit-making teams of the Brill Building remain the reigning standard. It was with the enduringcatalogs of these greats in mind that Nedelle Torrisi and Thom Moore – better known as simply Nedelle and Thom – crafted their collaborative debut, Summerland.
"We're both huge fans of Burt Bacharach, and '60s girl groups and girl singers in general," explains Nedelle. "And we wanted the album to have that feel. That was the principle that tied it all together: What would Dionne Warwick do?"
"I have been listening to '60s female singers for about seven years now," concurs Thom, citing Warwick, Jackie DeShannon, Petula Clark, and Dusty Springfield – "all of whom sang songs written by Mr. Bacharach" – among his favorites. "When Nedelle and I first met, I made her a cassette of Bacharach rarities, and our friendship, and musical partnership, is very much informed by that sound."
Yet like the best creations of the Brill Building greats, the songs of this Bay Area duo are very much the product of two distinct points of view, working in counterpoint and harmony. Before they joined forces, both Nedelle and Thom were established artists in their own right. She released her solo debut, Republic of Two, in 2003 on Kimchee Records; as the Moore Brothers, Thom and his sibling Greg have issued a pair of full-lengths, Colossal Small (2001) and On and Out (2003) via Amazing Grease, the label founded by Pavement's Scott Kannberg, a k a Spiral Stairs.
Both participants concur that it is the differences in their individual styles that makes their joint efforts so distinctive. "I tend to write songs that have a lot of dark humor, a la Dylan, Lennon, Robyn Hitchcock," observes Thom. Nedelle leans more towards classicists like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, as well as indie rock icons such as Elliott Smith, and concentrates on melodies. Yet they found writing together refreshingly pleasant and painless. "Usually, one of us would have a chorus, the other would add verses, and then we would both work on the lyrics together."
The fruits of those efforts range from the deceptively ebullient "You Take Me You Break Me" – a sort of contemporary twist (of the knife) on "It's My Party" – to the jazzy ballad "You Know," and the gentle closer "Lullaby." Nedelle's charming vocals are by turns wistful, bittersweet, and spirited, deftly navigating changes of time signature or lyrical sentiment with confidence and aplomb. Thom frames her performances with subtle harmonies and guitar parts, while the rhythm section of drummer Gavin McCarthy and bassist Jeff Goddard (both on loan from Karate) gently anchor the affair. Andy Hong, who first proposed that the two try writing together, recorded and mixed the disc at Kimchee studios in Boston, during the summer of 2003.
released July 27, 2004
Nedelle Torrisi - vocals, rhodes, and guitar on #9
Thom Moore - guitar, vocals
Gavin McCarthy - drums
Jeff Goddard - bass guitar
Recorded and mixed by Andy Hong at Kimchee
Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering
Photograph by Christine Morse
1, 2, 5, 8, 11 - by Nedelle Torrisi and Thom Moore
3, 7, 10 - by Thom Moore
4, 6, 9 - by Nedelle Torrisi