Songs for Dustmites

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Songs for Dustmites
Studio album by Steve Burns
Released 12 August 2003 (U.S.)
Recorded Various studios, New York in 2002
Genre Noise pop, indie rock, alternative rock
Length 45:44
Label

Pias America

Columbia
Producer Dave Fridmann, Ed Buller
Steve Burns chronology
Songs for Dustmites
(2003)
Deep Sea Recovery Efforts
(2009)

Songs for Dustmites is the debut album by American musician and former Blue's Clues host Steven "Steve" Burns. It was released in 12 August 2003 by Pias America based in the US and Columbia Records. The album was produced by Dave Fridmann, member of alternative rock band Mercury Rev and the producer of most of the albums by The Flaming Lips; and Ed Buller.

After quitting Blue's Clues, Burns, "in a position where [he] could do what [he] wanted", decided to collaborate with Fridmann and other members of The Flaming Lips. After receiving multiple offers from various record labels, Burns chose PIAS America. Songs for Dustmites is a pop/rock or indie rock album, and its lyrics are mostly about "science and love". It received positive reviews from music critics, although some of them believed that the album was only good because of his collaborations.

Background and recording[edit]

Before acting in Blue's Clues, Burns had been in many high-school and college bands. When he left the show in 2002 after working there for half a dozen years, he "found [himself] in a position where [he] could do what [he] wanted", he decided to become a musician.[1] He worked on demos, rehearsing the songs over and over again, scared to show them to anyone.[1] Burns began recording the album once he got a computer that could record and edit sounds. He recorded it in a trial-and-error way, until he believed it sounded right.[2] Burns started making Songs for Dustmites after he "was obsessed with a picture someone had shown [him] of a dustmite fighting with a micro gear".[3]

Burns later sent producer Dave Fridmann an e-mail introducing himself and sent the demos the day after Fridmann's son had a Blue's Clues-themed birthday party.[4] Fridmann liked the demos, so he sent Burns to Tarbox Road Studios in Fredonia, New York, where they worked with The Flaming Lips member Steven Drozd.[1] Mac Randall of The New York Observer hypothesized that the band decided to work with Burns because it was "too off-the-wall to resist."[5] Burns stated of recording with members of the Flaming Lips that "There were definitely moments when I would run into the next room so I could giggle maniacally, jump up and down and clap my hands", calling the experience "a dream come true".[6] According to Burns, "he and Fridmann gave [him] a lot of help in understanding the studio process, how it all works, how to take a musical idea and shine it up into a song". Ed Buller wrote to Burns, "sort of in disbelief". Burns suspects that Buller searched the Internet for Burns and downloaded his songs, "expecting to make fun of [him]", and was surprised that the music was not bad. Burns also met and worked with Mike Rubin from Murmur Music, saying that "some of the best work on the album came out of that relationship".[1] Burns received numerous offers from various record labels mostly due to him making an album being a "ridiculous story". He chose to sign with PIAS Records after talking with Kevin Wortis of the label, saying he "was the first one who sat me down and said, 'This makes sense. I don't know why, but there is a thread of logic between Blue's Clues, the Flaming lips and your record'."[4]

Composition[edit]

Lyrically, Songs for Dustmites deals with "familiar themes of love and loss",[7] while Burns himself has described the album as "songs about science and love".[1] Musically, the album fits into the pop/rock and alternative rock genres, and is heavily influenced by the Flaming Lips.[8][7][9] The lyrics of the opening track "Mighty Little Man" have been interpreted in different ways: a television watcher who suddenly turns into "an everyday superhero",[8][7] or "a lonely inventor's eureka moment".[10] It was inspired by inventor Thomas Edison and his "DIY projects that changed human history". When he made the song, he wanted it to "write a positive, empowering, exclamation point of a song".[11] The song itself contains a "fury of noise".[9] The following track, "What I Do on Saturday", is a "playful" pop song, while "Maintain" is a more mainstream song influenced by American alternative band They Might Be Giants.[8][7] The song "Troposhere" is "bright and bouncy", sounding like the Flaming Lips song "Fight Test".[8] The ballad[9] "A Song for Dustmites" contains piano and synths. The next track, "Stick Around", is melancholic[8] and sounds optimistic with its cello and trumpet.[7] ">1" is a "simple"[9] downtempo song that tells the story of a dysfunctional relationship. It features strings and a guitar solo.[8][7]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[8]
Pitchfork Media (7.8/10) [7]
PopMatters (favorable) [9]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4/5 stars [12]

Songs for Dustmites received positive reviews from music critics; most of them were surprised that an album made by the former Blue's Clues host would be any good.[7][1] Heather Phares of Allmusic called the album "a promising debut", writing it was "a good-natured collection of atmospheric pop that takes a few chances now and then." She gave the album three and a half stars out of five.[8] Pitchfork Media gave it a 7.8/10 and complimented Burns' "lyrical insight and gift for writing and arranging endlessly listenable pop songs". The album as a whole was described as managing "to remain true to Burns' legacy as a nice-guy kid's show host despite having made an unabashedly adult record that deals with familiar themes of love and loss".[7] Brian Houston of PopMatters wrote that "Songs for Dustmites is a successful album, but the caveat will always be that the reason for the success lies with the Lips contributions and not with Burns' talent or vision".[9] A reviewer at Tiny Mix Tapes stated he had "hoped to rate it amongst the worst of the year in revenge for the long and dreadful years of Blue's Clues that he had bestowed upon me. But he has beaten the odds and has accomplished what he had hoped for in this record".[12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Steve Burns

No. Title Length
1. "Mighty Little Man" (featuring Steven Drozd) 4:13
2. "What I Do on Saturday" (featuring Steven Drozd) 3:25
3. "Maintain" (featuring Steven Drozd) 3:16
4. ">1"   2:51
5. "Troposphere" (featuring Steven Drozd) 4:49
6. "Stick Around"   4:51
7. "A Reason"   2:45
8. "Music for Montgomery County, PA" (instrumental) 1:04
9. "A Song for Dustmites" (featuring Steven Drozd) 4:55
10. "Superstrings"   4:32
11. "A Sniveling Mess"   4:06
12. "Henry Krinkle's Lament" (featuring Steven Drozd) 4:54

Personnel[edit]

  • Steve Burns – vocals, guitars, rhodes piano, harmonica, effects, tone generator, space oscillator
  • Steven Drozd – keyboards, drums, guitars, vocal harmonies, bass, piano, hammond organ
  • Dave Fridmann, Conrad Korsch, Jim Whitney – bass
  • Ed Buller – keyboards
  • Mary Gavazzi Fridmann – magic porpoise voice
  • Michael Rubin – baritone guitar, keyboards
  • Jim O'Connor – trumpet, piccolo trumpet
  • Dorothy Lawson – cello
  • Ralph Farris – viola, trumpet
  • Bernard Devlin – drums
  • Michael Gentile – flute
  • Peter Robbins – tambourine

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Paul Ford (17 March 2003). "75,000,000 Toddlers Can't Be Wrong". The Morning News. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Joe D'Angelo (30 April 2002). "Ex-'Blue's Clues' Host Steve Burns An Indie Rocker At Heart". MTV. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "IndieWorkship.com". Steveswebpage.com, IndieWorkship.com. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Gerry Hart. "CMJ New Music Report". CMJ. Steveswebpage.com. Archived from the original on 19 June 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2005. 
  5. ^ Mac Randall (25 August 2003). "Burns Sans Blue: He's Got a Clue! Fall for East River Pipe, Buckley". The New York Observer. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Steve Burns – Blue's Clues Host Turned Rock Star". Entertainment Weekly. Steveswebpage.com. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2005. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brad Hurst (19 August 2003). "Steve Burns: Songs for Dustmites Review". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Heather Phares. "Songs for Dust Mites – Steve Burns". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Brian Houston (18 September 2003). "Steve Burns: Songs for Dustmites". PopMatters. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Devin Gordon. "Do You Know This Man? Need A Clue?". Newsweek. Steveswebpage.com. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2005. 
  11. ^ Chris Norris. "Me and You and a Dog Named Blue". Spin. Steveswebpage.com. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2005. 
  12. ^ a b "Steve Burns - Songs for Dustmites". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 1 December 2011.