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There'd be nothing wrong with "one-hit wonder" status if the term didn't suggest some sort of creative limitation; if people didn't assume that one hit means only one good song. But for Sean Nelson and Harvey Danger, the 1998 smash "Flagpole Sitta" has had a way of overshadowing the superior but less widely heard material that followed. By the time Harvey Danger self-released the tremendous 2005 album Little By Little..., the group's incisive, catchy, thoughtful post-hit songs were known mostly to obsessives and cultists.
Nelson has since worked as an actor and writer, and popped up in bands such as The Long Winters, but Harvey Danger's curious career fizzled out in full by the end of the '00s. But even its final recording, a free download called "The Show Must Not Go On," was a brilliant breakup song; it addressed a relationship's end, of course, but also neatly doubled as a summation of a career that fulfilled and frustrated. ("You can bash your head against the wall forever — the wall will never change," Nelson sang, adding, "But if you start to like the bloody bruises, the wall cannot be blamed.")
Thankfully, that wouldn't be Nelson's final musical chapter: He's about to return with a solo debut eight years in the making, titled Make Good Choices. Recorded in a leisurely fashion between distractions — and aided by collaborators such as Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck — the album comes out June 4, and finds Nelson sounding as wise and vital as ever.
The album's title track and first single, available for free download on this page, functions as a useful sequel to "The Show Must Not Go On." In "Make Good Choices," Nelson finds himself ruminating on a relationship he knows needed to end. But as he feels tempted to revisit the past, he's blessedly pulled back from the brink: "I started hearing voices / telling me to make good choices." The quotability only continues from there — "Nothing is more charming than a narcissist with whom you've just agreed," et al — but Nelson also has valuable points to make about how some things, even good things, end for a reason. Thankfully, he's got his eye on new beginnings, as well.
Here's Sean Nelson on Clyde Petersen's sweetly inventive animated video for "Make Good Choices":
"I had seen a lot of Clyde's work over the past few years — notably his videos for The Thermals, Deerhoof, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, and Shenandoah Davis — and was struck by its humor, texture and versatility. In the current anyone-with-a-camera-phone-can-do-it landscape of digitally astringent online music videos, Clyde's films explode with handmade mischief and invention. Of all my friends in the world of indie film, he was the perfect candidate to do the best thing you can ask from a video for the first music I've released in eight years: Make a gorgeous illustration of a world you'd never have thought of, but which still looks and feels like the song."
And here's Petersen:
"Drawing inspiration from the image archives at the downtown Seattle Public Library, I collected a multitude of 1950s advertising, featuring ski slopes, snow bunnies and snowmen selling various objects, including liquor, brooms and beer. Pulling color schemes from this art and using watercolor paints to create a soft world for Sean and his snow friend to frolic, the idea was to create a magical snow kingdom, with room to wonder, 'Is it real, or is it all in Sean's mind?'"
Make Good Choices comes out June 4 on Really Records.