First Listen

First Listen: Sean Nelson, 'Make Good Choices'

Sean Nelson's new album, Make Good Choices, comes out June 4. i i

Sean Nelson's new album, Make Good Choices, comes out June 4. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Sean Nelson's new album, Make Good Choices, comes out June 4.

Sean Nelson's new album, Make Good Choices, comes out June 4.

Courtesy of the artist

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In the playfully faux-autobiographical "Kicking Me Out of the Band," Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson closes his solo debut by painting a comical portrait of a deluded former frontman whose hedonistic exploits get him booted from the band he'd founded. It's a stinging, clever bit of satire — the sort of song Nelson ought to trot out at a key moment in the stage musical he was born to write one day — but it also draws a sharp contrast to the singer's own story.

Unlike the subject of "Kicking Me Out of the Band," Harvey Danger followed its own tremendous success — in the form of a smash single called "Flagpole Sitta" back in 1998 — with a pair of lovely records, neither of which did much of anything commercially. But Nelson never seemed to chase another chart-topper: His band's second album, 2000's King James Version, was a lush, thoughtful, sonically ambitious flop, and Harvey Danger self-released a near-perfect power-pop record (Little by Little...) five years later, before slowly winding down operations by the end of the decade. The group disbanded amid no apparent animosity, and Nelson has kept busy as a writer, actor and occasional musician ever since.

Now, eight years after Little by Little..., Nelson returns with Make Good Choices, a wonderfully catchy and quotable solo album to which he'd devoted years of intermittent tinkering. Recorded with an assortment of sure-handed all-stars, including R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, Make Good Choices fits perfectly on the irregular-but-unimpeachable Harvey Danger continuum. The title track even serves as a sequel of sorts to the group's last song, "The Show Must Not Go On," as Nelson looks back on a failed relationship through the lenses of temptation and bitterness, only to wisely conclude that the past is best left where it belongs.

True to virtually every piece of music Nelson has ever written, Make Good Choices (out June 4) is fueled by a cocktail of quotability and charm — not to mention a gift for gorgeous ballads like "Advance and Retreat" — but also clearly informed by the unlikely career that led him to this point. In all, it's a fine new beginning for Nelson, a singer who's all the wiser for the endings he's faced.

First Listen: Sean Nelson, 'Make Good Choices'

Cover for Make Good Choices

The World Owes Me A Living (And I Intend To Collect)

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Born Without A Heart

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Creative Difference

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Brooklyn Bridge

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Make Good Choices

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Advance And Retreat

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Ski Lift Incident

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

More Good News From The Front

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

I'll Be The One

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

The Price Of Doing Business

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Stupid And 25 (The Incredibly Sad Shuffle)

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Hey, Millicent

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

Kicking Me Out Of The Band

  • Artist: Sean Nelson
  • Album: Make Good Choices

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First Listen