44 is a very difficult number to deal with. I know because I'm there.
At 44 you're closer to 50 than you are to 30 and yet you still feel like 30 is old. Sure, you may have the kind of job where you don't have to mop up before you go home; but you also can't party until 3 am because you have to get up at 7 to get the kids on the school bus. So what do you do when you find yourself saying, 'Who am I - and how did I get here?'
If you're Mike Tittel, the creative force behind the band New Sincerity Works, you sit down and write a painfully honest album that feels like a musical version of therapy and you call it 44.
In Mike's own words, "The music is guitar driven alt-pop that reflects the realization that life is an uncontrollable ride." However, Tittel has chosen to take this ride with some good friends who also happen to be amazing musicians. Scattered throughout the landscape of 44 is a role-call of local artists that includes Bob Nyswonger [Bears, Psychodots], Roger Klug [Roger Klug Power Trio], Pat and Sally O'Callaghan [Beer], Bradley Skaught [The Bye Bye Blackbirds] and Todd Lipscomb [The Kentucky Struts].
When New Sincerity Works performs live, Tittel is joined on-stage by Jenni Cox [Godholly], Tom White [Godholly, Spiwak] and Greg Tudor [Beer]. Also included among that collection of talented artists is photographer Jack Simon, whose enigmatic imagery of two girls of indeterminate age playing "dress-up" on the curb makes for an engaging album cover and contrasts well as the only spot of color in the package design.
44 opens almost timidly, as if Mike is on his best behavior, not sure if you'll like what he has to say. Using songs like "Nowhere Ohio" and "Know Yourself," he eases you into his story - for it is a very, almost uncomfortably, personal one - and he sets the stage by explaining who he is and how he got here. Yet as raw as these emotions are, they are cloaked in delightful melodies full of multi-layered guitar tracks, up-beat rhythms and well-balanced vocal harmonies.
Almost like a blind-date - after a few tracks, once you've gotten to know each other - New Sincerity Works hits you with staggeringly beautiful and poignant pieces like "Less Me, Less You," "I'm Not the Problem" and the jangling Byrds-like poetry of "Vanishing Someone."
Everywhere throughout 44 are hints of musical influences that span the alt-pop spectrum from The Beatles to Guided by Voices. These are the tools Tittel uses to paint his self-portrait - a work of art that, when you look at it, what you tend to find is yourself staring back at you.
The culmination of the the joy, pain, laughter, tears and beer that it took to write 44 can be found in the piece "The Next Time" - an extraordinarily pointed confession of awareness and self-actualization. Even if the other 12 tracks on 44 did not exist, the message of the album would still ring true and clear based solely on the power of this single.
Like everything about growing up, 44 is merely a number, not a sentence. It is certainly not the end of the story - and I hope 44 is not the end of the music we get to hear from Mike Tittel and New Sincerity Works.