Shane Bartell
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Shane Bartell

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Summer minus great pop music is like no air conditioning. Everyone's blood is up, and in Texas especially, crazy from the heat is more of a lifestyle than an expression. It's hard to blame Shane Bartell for wanting to lie around listening to the Red House Painters in "Harris Park," for example, or not mowing the yard because The Simpsons is on during "My Dad." His seven-song Reference is one of those cool nocturnal breezes off Town Lake, all too brief and yet profoundly refreshing. Bartell has a natural gift with melodies, polished to a high gloss by producer Lars Goransson. The lush "Water," jazzy "I Should Have Known," and frenetic "Desperate" all fill the room with radiant, supple reasons to smile. Besides, how can you not love a songwriter who tosses off observations like "I know it's wrong to be in my parents' house alone"? This album will not make it any cooler outdoors, but it’ll make a fine soundtrack, whiling away a lazy afternoon, and in that way, helping make the summer that much more bearable. Or almost, anyway.
- Austin Chronicle


So many artists these days get Radiohead (by which is meant The Bends) and Jeff Buckley comparisons nailed to their foreheads, and so few deserve them. Austin's Shane Bartell actually earns those accolades without too much direct emulation. Too Soon to Say is masterpiece of sweeping, melodic pop; its beautiful songs and stunning vocals combine for a wonderful example of pure emotional expression. Plus it's got some bossa nova.
~Michael Toland
- High Bias Magazine


If you haven't heard of Austin's critical favorite Shane Bartell yet, here's your chance -- though after the opening measures of "Another New Year", you may think you've been listening to him for years. Sorry, friend, that was Jeff Buckley. Easy mistake, though -- and a comparison Bartell has doubtlessly smiled and nodded his way through for years.

Splitting the difference between Buckley's octave-defying acrobatics and Duncan Sheik's ear for perfect pop, Shane Bartell makes a hell of an impression on his first full-length. Warm and welcoming, he unspools the kind of morning-after melodies that draw listeners in and make us want to get to know him better, even as he keeps us at arm's distance, just far enough out of reach as to be forever unattainable. He may have legions of fans who can sing along with every word, but they'll never know what's really going on behind his eyes -- no more than you or I will. Still, it doesn't hurt to wonder.

For my two cents, I'd say that Bartell is probably the kind of guy who never stops paying attention, even when everyone else has stopped paying attention to him. How else could you explain a full album of swelling, understated mini-symphonies crafted around dead-on observations like "Looking for music to painfully remind me / That cigarettes and empty beers mark the progress here" (from "There Were Times") and "Warm and wet spreads across my chest / With your face buried in it" ("At Any Moment"). Similar in spirit to Bernard Butler's first post-Suede solo effort, this is a lush, involving pop that rewards close attention but offers enough hooks and clever turns of phrase to warrant such attention in the first place. If anything, a few tracks' David Gray-like abstractness might prevent them from seeping into the collective subconscious, but that doesn't mean they're not delightful ear candy for those of us with the attention span to appreciate their subtleties.

After an album like this, the best thing that could happen for Bartell would be the worst thing for his fans: a success on par with that of the "damned if I do" career of John Mayer, destined to be overhyped, overexposed and underappreciated all in the same breath. Call me greedy for thinking we should be allowed to keep him to ourselves for just a while longer, but begrudge him nothing; the man deserves whatever good fortune comes his way. Let's just hope he doesn't lose sight of the little things along the way.
~Justin Kownacki
- Splendid Magazine


There's something very satisfying about the warm warble of Shane Bartell's voice, even when he's telling depressing tales of relationships ruined or lost. I can even forgive the pat cliche of his album artwork when listening to the soothing melodies of songs like "Another New Year" and "At Any Moment," his voice soaring to Buckley-esque heights, at turns charming and chiding.

Bartell's elastic vocals, along with complements of slide guitar, cello, and other creative instrumentation aren't the only things that keep this record from being standard singer-songwriter, adult-con fare. There's an eclecticism to Bartell's style that's unusual in someone so relatively green - having served a long tenure as a guitarist in another's band, Bartell went on an extended songwriting sabattical, and emerged very impressively. Live shows attest to his lessons learned, where he's capable of commanding a stage solo or with accompaniment, pulling even unwilling audience members into his lair.

Overall, the record captures his energy well. Songs like "Beginning to Believe" and "There Were Times" have both musical resonance and innovation, and get more interesting the more times you hear them. Even less stellar tracks ("Don't Believe Everything", the useless segway [], Long and Short I) on Too Soon To Say, perhaps surrendering to lackluster guitar solos, convention masquerading as invention, morose repetition and overly chimy guitars dragging the chorus along, still surprise and manipulate at turn, not letting you give up on this record and its overwhelmingly winning ways.

Sure, Bartell is dealing in standard fare, and sometimes his lyrics fail to rise above that. More often, though, they deliver a strange sense of sadness and recognition. What ultimately gets you, though, is just how easy this record is to listen to, how it seems to fit comfortably into any moment of your day, or how easy it is to find a song that reminds you of something vaguely painful or embarrassing or instructive, something you can't or don't want to name.

- Rock-Fuel Online Music Magazine


Too Soon to Say (Lilywhite) "Days go by, until someone says it's over." Never one to readily admit defeat, on his first full-length CD, Too Soon to Say, Shane Bartell is so nonchalant he's practically unaffected. Despite every effort to the contrary, he's long past the point of good intentions. Assisted by Marcus Rice, Derek Morris, Darin Murphy, and several others, Bartell's disc acknowledges upfront that love isn't quite as simple as it seems when you're plotting the coordinates from the corner of Sixth and Red River to your latest destination. Too Soon to Say, then, divides its time between foregone conclusions and things that might have been done differently – as if that would help. "There Were Times" documents the uncomfortable period when she's not quite ready to move on, but you are, or vice versa. No proper names, because that would be too personal, but "Long and Short" lays the heart open all the same. Try and come to a favorable conclusion from "Beginning to Believe," but the answer appears "before the words come over the phone." Upon first glance, Too Soon to Say might seem like an irredeemable downer, but for Bartell and accomplices, it's a way to exorcise their late-night demons without diving off into the deep end of an irreversible blue mood. By the final notes, though it may be long after the bars have closed, anyone can understand what it feels like to be spent, exhausted, and yet somehow ready for more.
~Christopher Gray - Austin Chronicle


Discography

“Too Soon To Say” Sarathan Records LP 2006 - To be released

“Too Soon To Say” Lilywhite Records LP 2004 - Out of Print

“Reference” self-released mini-LP 2001 - Out of Print

Photos

Bio

Shane Bartell’s voice- easy, impossibly infectious and thick with focus- can drift from vague and
otherworldly to intimate and realized within a single
breath, flitting effortlessly from throaty to smooth,
mellow to scrappy, confident to crestfallen.
Ultimately, all that somersaulting makes perfect
sense: Bartell’s Too Soon To Say (Sarathan Records) takes you through the exhilaration, trials and tribulations of a budding relationship. These are seamless sounds, the aural equivalents of deep-stomach butterflies, mystery and promise intertwined. Having earned a reputation for powerful, unpredictable shows, Shane's music and regular touring has gained him a sizable fan base in cities as far-flung as Boston and Portland, Oregon. Effortlessly combining beauty and subtlety, Shane’s undeniable live presence is affirmed by Details Magazine, saying, "He's the congenital critical darling, in the best sense of the word. When you see him live, no one need ask, 'Can you feel the love tonight?', the love is self-evident."

Shane Bartell grew up in the Texas Hill Country,
surrounded by cowboy boots and snuff - cultural
references seemingly erased by his turning-point
discovery of The Smiths and The Pixies. Moving to
music-mecca Austin in the 90’s, he spent several years as the guitarist for the female-fronted band Cling and shared stages with the likes of Oasis and Liz Phair. Cling was a regional favorite, but after several years with the band, Shane decided to focus on his own songwriting. After a year holed up penning songs, Shane quickly recruited a band and began to develop a local following. Without any recorded material, his audiences swelled, surprising club owners and encouraging Shane, as singalongs became a regular part of the evening. During the 2001 South by Southwest music conference, Marco Werman from the PRI show "The World," named Shane as one of the best 3 showcases that year and helped him get his debut EP, Reference , international airplay. Reference put Shane in the national limelight for the first time. The Austin Chronicle wrote, "He's demonstrated the talent and charisma to pen songs with 'hit' written all over them, and it takes only one listen to the classic pop genius of 'Up for Air' and 'If I Could Only Get My Head Out of the Gutter' to understand what that means.”

Shane began recording and perfecting the contents of Too Soon To Say soon after, electing to work with producer Lars Goransson (The Cardigans, Blondie) on his first full-length. The album’s song cycle traces the rise and fall of an epic relationship- from its careful, eager origins through an excruciatingly anticlimactic end. Too Soon To Say details all the longing, nostalgia, regret, anger and acceptance inevitably chained to meeting, and then losing a lover. It’s a universal sequence, familiar and exhilarating and, remarkably, just spinning Too Soon To Say is enough to make it all feel real again. While Shane Bartell clearly feeds off the same earnest, emotive tendencies as artists like Morrissey, Coldplay and even Badly Drawn Boy, he’s careful to avoid ever drifting into dangerously precious territory, consistently eschewing rote sentimentality in favor of sharp, unaffected, pockets-out honesty.

With his trademark blend of tense guitar, spiraling
keyboards and twittering drums, Bartell’s songs are
decidedly difficult to pin down, twisting and squirming into new, dynamic shapes, reinventing
themselves with each subsequent listen. And after all, one of the great things about music post-90’s is that we aren’t stuck in narrow stylistic tunnels anymore. Artists aren’t pigeonholed as indie or mainstream, hip hop or techno, mod or rocker. And this is a good thing for Shane Bartell. It’s not so much his blending of genres or the fact that he evades the notion of what a “pop” record should be, as much as it is the ease and skill with which he does these things. These are songs yhat sound at home in this brave new musical paradigm.