Heartbreak can bring on its own totally exquisite set of feelings. This seeming paradox -- that something beautiful can grow from suffering -- is exemplified by Money Mark's new album Brand New By Tomorrow. "This isn't your typical jump up and down and have fun record like I usually make," its creator says. With eleven finely-wrought and buoyantly tuneful songs, Brand New By Tomorrow represents a great leap forward for the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
But hey, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Mark has collaborated on crucial recordings with the likes of Yoko Ono, Beck, Jack Johnson, and Blues Explosion, to name but a few. His musicality was the organic ingredient that induced the Beastie Boys' rebirth beginning with 1992's epochal Check Your Head. Adept at melding funk, jazz, hip-hop, folk, Afro-Cuban and Latin musics as well as brain-goggling experimentalist noise, Mark now presents a tender and resilient side to his muse...a side that hasn't been heard before quite like this..
Brand New By Tomorrow opens with "Color Of Your Blue", the song's clean harmonica figure and fluttering-heart flute make way for an indelible chorus: "Life is made up of all that you lose/ can't even choose the color of your blue." "Color Of Your Blue" sets the tone for an album whose songs, while borne of pain, are ultimately hopeful, uplifting and based in acceptance.
"I was really vulnerable at the time I was making the album," Mark says. "I was writing for therapy, just to get through my day. These songs didn't come easy. Maybe I wrote a couple in one sitting, but that sitting was a long dark night." Coming just over a decade after his debut solo salvo Mark's Keyboard Repair, Brand New By Tomorrow is more like Mark's heart repair.
On "Eyes That Ring" he sings "silence is the loudest thing/ when you look at me with eyes that ring." With an oboe playing astringent counterpoint to a dulcet horn line, the song epitomizes the discomfiting push/pull at the heart of its lyric: "Simultaneously loving you/ I wear the thorny crown."
Brand New By Tomorrow is Mark's first album to be released by Brushfire Records, the label headed by Jack Johnson. Mark and Jack met during a late '90s recording session helmed by notable producer Mario Caldato, Jr. (who also produced Brand New By Tomorrow), with Mark subsequently playing upright piano in Jack's band during a tour of Japan. "I gave Jack a set of demos," Mark explains, "and he wanted to issue them as they were. I told him my idea was to redo them, and after Jack heard that he said 'Cool, that's what I really want to put out!'"
Mark is quick to point out with trademark understatement that Brand New By Tomorrow "isn't a complete downer." "Pick Up The Pieces", the album's first single, gets its pep in part from a fleet line supplied by the legendary Beach Boys bassist Carol Kaye. "Black Butterfly" (a song about someone close to Mark who, in early adolescence, has taken to wearing all black) is built around the gorgeous warmth of Mark's Fender Rhodes electric piano. The song also sports a magical moment when the proverbial butterfly of the lyrics is embodied by the keyboard itself taking flight. "For that little pass I wanted to use all the metal and reed and horn and string sounds together, which I did using my Wurlitzer."
While its memorable melodies and stimulating rhythms make Brand New By Tomorrow an inviting listen, the album also repays careful listening. In a download-centric era when it seems like a five second soundbite reveals everything there is to know about most pop songs, BNBT has a lot more going for it. Smokey Robinson-inspired vocal flourishes appear only as "My Loss" fades out, and there's a scorching guitar solo tucked away on "Summer Blue".
Brand New By Tomorrow ends with its title track, incidentally the only song on the album that appears in its original demo version. Plaintive piano and clean acoustic guitar chords support Mark singing in his sweet, soulful voice: "I guess there's no way to avoid a broken heart/ but what I can say is I will never go very far."
"I named the song and the album Brand New By Tomorrow because I just thought, all this could be fixed in a one day. These people are breaking up but by tomorrow they will be best of friends," Mark says. "I like to get over pain quickly, which can really only be done by facing it head on. With this album I decided to face things head on and document them." Thank heavens for that. Filled with hope, its gorgeous music buoyed by the belief that better times are on the way, Brand New By Tomorrow is a break-up album made to be cherished.