Ivy – Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of “Long Distance” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ivy – Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of “Long Distance”

The Album From Adam Schlesinger’s Band Came Out in 2001 via Nettwerk

Aug 25, 2021 By Austin Saalman
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Nearly nine years following the release of Ivy’s final album, Adam Schlesinger’s untimely death on April Fool’s Day 2020 shook the musical community, with the prolific Emmy-winning, Grammy-nominated songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer’s name being added to the already extensive list of popular culture luminaries who had succumbed prematurely to COVID-19. After having spent the final week of his life on a ventilator, Schlesinger was pronounced dead at the age of 52.

In comparison to those of his contemporaries, Schlesinger’s name was not necessarily household, but the versatile portfolio he accumulated over the course of his 30-year career kept him in high esteem among his peers. In 1997, he was nominated for both a Grammy and a Golden Globe Award for his musical contribution to the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do!, receiving two more Grammy nominations six years later for Top 40 hit “Stacey’s Mom,” written and recorded with his central band Fountains of Wayne. Schlesinger also won several Emmy Awards for his outstanding work on television shows such as Sesame Street and Crazy Ex Girlfriend. His wide ranging creative output established him as one the premier songwriters of his time.

While a member of Fountains of Wayne, the acclaimed alt rock group founded in 1995 by Schlesinger and vocalist Chris Collingwood, Schlesinger also recorded with Ivy, a three-piece indie outfit founded the previous year. The band consisted of Schlesinger, songwriter/producer Andy Chase, and vocalist/lyricist Dominique Durand, and offered a cooler, sleeker alternative to Fountains of Wayne’s generally sunny power pop approach, fusing a glossy indie rock base with elements of dream pop, trip hop, New Wave, and electropop. Their 1995 debut LP Realistic received favorable reviews, offering a stripped-down incarnation of their signature sound to come, while sophomore effort Apartment Life featured input from Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and tied with Green Day’s Nimrod as Billboard’s seventh best album of 1997. Two of the album’s tracks, “This is the Day” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” were featured on 1998’s There’s Something About Mary and 2002’s Orange County, respectively. Despite the accolades, however, Epic dropped Ivy, and the group signed to Nettwerk soon after.

Initially released in Japan in October 2000, the group’s third album Long Distance saw its U.S. debut on July 10, 2001, receiving positive reviews from critics. Boasting the successful single “Edge of the Ocean,” Ivy’s signature song was featured on a variety of films and television shows following its release, including Shallow Hal (for which Ivy also provided the soundtrack), Orange County, Grey’s Anatomy, and Veronica Mars.

A richly layered pop daydream, underscored with a string of distant “sha-la-la-la-la’s,” “Edge of the Ocean” would become Ivy’s major mainstream accomplishment, as well as one of Schlesinger’s definitive moments as a composer. Durand’s hushed vocal style is on full display here—unconcerned, yet welcoming somehow—as she assures the listener, “We can begin again/Shed our skin, let the sun shine in/At the edge of the ocean/We can start over again.”

While “Edge of the Ocean” may be the album’s cornerstone, there is still much to be admired elsewhere on Long Distance, such as on the infectious “Disappointed” and the downtrodden “While We’re in Love,” with “Lucy Doesn’t Love You” arriving in time to illuminate any somber notes with its jangly synth flirtations and bombastic brass. Subsequently, the ghostly fragility of “Worry About You” creates an air of eeriness, this atmosphere resulting in its use as the opening theme for Stephen King’s 2004 ABC series Kingdom Hospital, which also features Fountains of Wayne’s “Red Dragon Tattoo” in its first episode.

Long Distance frames a portrait of Ivy at a stylistic turning point in their career, having upgraded themselves from the comfortable indie sounds of their earlier releases to a sonically exploratory strand of surrealist pop, as evident on “Midnight Sun,” which happens to be one of the album’s standout tracks. The bossanova-infused “Let’s Stay Inside” offers a complete embodiment of the dreamy rainy afternoon atmosphere so prevalent on the album, while the trip hop-tinged “I Think of You” finds Durand exploring themes similar to those of “Edge of the Ocean,” singing, “Don’t give up, baby/Don’t give in/If we try, we can begin again.” “Blame It on Yourself” offers the lively indie rock sound of Apartment Life, Durand’s melodic vocals guiding the wall of guitar and keyboard behind her.

“One More Last Kiss” winds the album down on a bittersweet note, beginning with a jagged piano melody and ending with the strum of a guitar. Durand sings, “One more last kiss/Like two prisoners/One more last kiss/To hold on to/One more last kiss/Just to remember you before we fade away.” These lines are fitting not only for the mood of the album, but also the state of the band in the wake of a new millennium. Finally, the album closes with a worthy cover of The Blow Monkeys’ 1986 hit “Digging Your Scene.”

Remaining on the Nettwerk label, Ivy released their 2005 masterwork In the Clear, followed by 2011’s perplexing All Hours before disbanding the following year. In Ivy’s aftermath, Chase continued to record new music as Brookville, having released several albums while a member of Ivy, including 2003’s worthwhile Wonderfully Nothing. In 2012, he adopted the moniker Camera2, sporadically releasing new music over the following decade. During their time in the group, Chase and Durand married. Schlesinger continued with his diverse creative endeavors, including the formation of Tinted Windows with James Iha, Hanson’s Taylor Hanson, and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos, releasing a self-titled album in 2009. As a producer, he worked with a vast array of artists, from The Monkees to Dashboard Confessional. With Fountains of Wayne, he released two more studio albums and one compilation following Welcome Interstate Managers, remaining with the group until their disbanding in 2013.

While Ivy’s output does reflect its era’s specific style, there remains a certain otherworldly quality to the impersonal mystique of Durand’s vocals, paired with Chase and Schlesinger’s intricate compositions and polished production, all of which result in a peculiarly intimate experience. What the music community lost in Adam Schlesinger is exactly that which is being lost continually as a younger generation shifts away from the archaic and on toward the development of its own sound. For some, however, a revisitation of Long Distance may pleasantly surprise, enabling a fresh perspective on an aging gem still worthy of consideration.

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