I don't think it's all too preposterous of an assumption to say that Michael Tietjen is most likely a pretty ordinary guy. He gets nervous around girls. He falls victim to a contrived sense of self-doubt just a little too often. He's got a decent awareness of his strengths and talents, sure. More often than not though, these positive notions fail to surface on account of a less-than-assertive personality and a generally phlegmatic demeanor. Perhaps I'm being far too presumptuous, considering I've never even met the fellow. But just a few listens through Look To The Sidelines, the latest effort from Family Lumber, Tietjen's Long Island based indie troupe, presents the listener with a pretty clear picture of the sort of man that Michael is.
In a lot of ways, it's easy to draw a connection between Michael Tietjen and Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard. Though the former lacks the potent songwriting capacity of the latter, the songs found here don't trail far behind in terms of cohesiveness and enjoyability. 'Before I Sleep' paints an imaginative picture of Tietjen's aforementioned self-deprecative tendencies, whereas 'Everything You Wanted To Say' picks up the mood a bit, yet still maintains the same unaffected overall demeanor. And though none of the tracks provide the audience with anything out of the ordinary, the ease and comfort found in subsequent listens makes Look To The Sidelines a nice little treat, with its short play length serving as a saving grace of sorts.
It seemed ridiculous at first to learn that this EP marks the fifth release from this band. The songwriting is seasoned, the timing is just as it should be, and a subtle sense of experience hangs on every song - it almost seems wrong that Family Lumber have yet to make any sort of a name for themselves. But remember that music video for Death Cab's 'Soul Meets Body', where all the pretty music notes materialize from arbitrary places and then unostentatiously float along through the sky? Look To The Sidelines is sort of like that - its tracks don't grab at one's attention, but rather sit on the airwaves, willing their fate to the verdicts of jet streams and butterfly effects and delusional meteorologists. Much like Family Lumber's lukewarm frontman, these songs aren't begging for open ears… which is a perfectly good reason to lend them yours.
Stream it here.