By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Jumping into it led to Shannon's first solo full-length, as well as the label (Casa Recording Co.) that released the self-titled album in late January. But it took some work to get there. Shannon began writing songs in earnest in 1999 ("I think it took a little boredom to get my ass in gear and start writing songs," she says, laughing), slowly gathering material over the next few months until she had around 17 finished songs and fragments, which she began weeding through with Wescott.
"I had never really written songs on my own before, so they were kind of not very focused," Shannon says. "They were kind of all over the place. There were some pop songs, there were some indie-rock songs, and there were some folksy, alt-country songs. Blake and I decided that the straightforward pop songs were the strongest. So we went with those, which left us with about seven songs or pieces of songs."
Besides helping Shannon finish up some of the songs she had already written for the album, Wescott also contributed three of his own tunes and helped get a band together to record them all. And it's not the standard two guitars, drums and bass lineup you might expect, given Shannon's discography. "As things started coming together and we decided that the focus was going to be kind of straightforward pop music, it became more apparent that these songs needed an old-school pop treatment," Shannon says. With that in mind, the disc is full of horn lines and string sections, Wurlitzer and Hammond organs, flutes and high harmonies--pretty much everything except the fuzzy guitar sounds that marked most Velocity Girl records.
As a result, Shannon comes off as the Dusty Springfield to Wescott's Burt Bacharach, leaving her indie-rock past on the CD shelf where it belongs. Her songs are simple and classic, never thinking too much, since the words come from her heart instead of her head; "I'll run away," the chorus to the song of the same name, pretty much says it all, at least when it's being said in Shannon's strong voice. Running (or walking) away seems to be the theme of the album, whether she's doing it or someone else is. "Nothing could ever satisfy your ambitious eyes," she sings on the organ-fueled "Heaven Got Wider," "so now I'm walking away." "Go on and run away, sweetheart," she sings, at it again on "Are You Far Enough," "but you won't find your peace of mind." "What if I try to stop you from leaving," goes Wescott's "When You Live Life Alone." You'd say goodbye and I'd stop believing." Thankfully, the melodies balance the maladies, Shannon flashing a smile through tears.
Toward the end of the disc--on "Are You Far Enough," especially--her rock roots start to show through, but there's a difference: Now her voice doesn't have to share top billing when the music gets louder. Then again, everything is different now. Shannon is her own boss, a job she took because she had to, but one she's gradually growing into. In 1999, she decided to become a musician again. In 2002, she's realized she can do that and so much more. As long as she's getting music out into the world, it doesn't matter whether it's hers or someone else's. Getting music out there is all that matters.
"It was just necessity, and also I thought it would be...fun," Shannon says, laughing at the thought of that much heartache and that many headaches being considered "fun." "Back then I thought it would be fun. It's turned out to be a lot of work, of course. But, also, there's a chance to put out other music, which is a big appeal. We've put out an EP by this band Seldom that's been received pretty well. They went on tour with Pedro the Lion. And we also put out a live acoustic album by The Posies, called In Case You Didn't Feel Like Plugging In. So, I mean, it was necessity, in that I wanted to put out my own music and nobody seemed interested in doing it. I wanted to put out music in general, not just my own."