Review ·

Eventually, it seems, every bit player, even the essential ones, is going to want to go it alone. It's understandable -- after playing second fiddle for a few years, who wouldn't want to step into the limelight? -- and sometimes it works out well (see Final Fantasy, the Band). But record-store dollar bins are littered with albums by guys who thought they could lead their own bands. Such is the case with Sean Flinn: the role of frontman just doesn't seem to be in the cards.


Flinn's claim to semi-fame is that he's backed up the darlingly folksy Jolie Holland and performs with her as part of Jolie Holland and the Hunting Party, but he's also a Portland everyman who's recorded with Herman Dune and been in countless groups, including a jazz quintet. Plus, he's classically trained in composition and guitar. His solo material, unfortunately, is rather lacking. His singing comes across too plainspoken, and most songs, while fundamentally not bad, lack a certain spark of verve. His lyrics and melodies aren't awful, really, just boring. Some moments and chord progressions seem pretty, but all too often they become muddied with an awkward line or key change that ruins the moment. Take "Salt That's In Our Blood," which is a perfectly pleasant, gently rambling tune with a guitar line that sounds like the Cranberries' "Dreams." It's a fine enough track, but in 2010 the Cranberries shouldn't really be a song's main point of reference.

Maybe it's also a result of his hometown. White-guys-with-guitars music in Portland can all too easily lose sight of the line that separates indie rock from adult contemporary, and they end up playing to audiences who think Wilco is a little too edgy. And though Write Me A Novel is mainly Flinn's branchild, it also features a crew of local Portland folks. In some ways it takes the essence of his neighbor M. Ward, just slightly less enjoyable.

Which is just to say, at this point, it doesn't seem like leading his own band is in Sean Flinn's destiny. He probably plays his instruments superbly, but, unfortunately, his album isn't very fun to listen to. Luckily, he also plays in, among other projects, Y La Bamba, an up-and-coming Portland group that sounds like the bastard step-child of Grizzly Bear and Caetano Veloso. So he's not totally wedded to being the main man.


Stream/Download "Patient Heart:



Casual - He Still Think He Raw Lil Twist Don't Get It Twisted


Dear Julian,

I was shocked to read your review of Sean Flinn and The Royal We’s debut LP, Write Me A Novel. When I read it, I wondered if this was truly a review of this CD, in view of the many rave reviews I have read since its release. Your words are sarcastic, shallow, demeaning, and tackless. You put down the entire Portland music scene and this includes many very talented and seasoned musicians, some of whom are internationally known. I love the way Portland musicians cooperate with each other and support each others’ bands, something I have not observed elsewhere. I have heard dozens of people who have bought Write Me a Novel say that they are “obsessed” by this CD.

You are putting down young musicians who have dedicated their lives to music and who have bravely exposed their hearts and souls for the world to see and hear. It makes me wonder what your agenda is. Do you think that the word “critic” means “to criticize?”


Lita Lee

/site_media/uploads/images/users/prefix/no-user-pic.gif LitaLee

This doesn't even really seem like a review. Do you have something personal against Portland, OR music? It just comes of as cynical, bitter and a smear review. What writer dumbs down to saying "Not fun" to refer to an album? This is probably one of the most poorly written reviews I've ever read.

Buck Yeltson

The cranberries? What the hell are you talking about? I've listened to the album in question here, and although I don't always go for the style, I recognize talent and vision, and do my best to respect it. "white guys with guitars" Really? Wow. I hope nobody paid you for that crap. If they did, I hope they don't do it again.


I once stood next to members of R.E.M at a Sean Flinn show, and they stood in the back amazed. They later remarked at this young songwriter's artistic maturity, lyrical depth, and his rare ability to pen a catchy melody. I admire this talented songwriter just the same, and simply cannot stop listening to this gem of a record- and I'm not the only one.

This poorly written review is embarrassing to no one other than it's ignorant "writer". He doesn't have to personally prefer Sean's music, but does he somehow get off on tearing down a hardworking musician? Why not just pass on the review if you don't like the record? Is this silly kid even old enough to know who the Cranberries are? And where does he get off criticizing a flourishing music scene that he knows nothing of? His ignorant "understanding" of Portland's "white guys with guitars" scene made me laugh out loud. What? Have James Mercer, M Ward, Brit Daniel, and Isaac Brock "all too easily lost sight of the line that separates indie rock from adult contemporary, and ended up playing to audiences who think Wilco is a little too edgy"? Seriously? Why on earth is such a tool writing for an otherwise legitimate publication?

Which is to say, at this point, it doesn't seem like reviewing records is Julian Hattem's destiny. How this review got past an editor is beyond me.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/prefix/no-user-pic.gif shelleyrenee

I haven't even listened to this album yet, but I can tell you I already hate this reviewer Julian " Pitchfork intern tweeb " Hattem.

you must be one of those 22-26 year olds that no one liked and so you thought you could get back at the world by criticizing people and places you've never even visited . I see you interned at Pitchfork which is where they must have taught yopu to be a number 1 A**HOLE. You've also been a canvasser, and are currently an intern at Huffington Post, and I'm guessing you don't get paid by Pre-Fix either.

Guess what, it looks like I am not the only one tired of snot nosed snarky little reviewers who think they know anything about music. Take my advice, get a real job , and stop being such a prick, it will get you a lot further in life.

GOD has spoken !

Jesus Christ Superstar

I'm always curious when someone writes a particularly scathing review of a self-released album.
For what it's worth, I recently bought "Write Me A Novel" and I have been enjoying it. The lyrics are interesting and creative, and the melodies are catchy and unique. I can tell it will stay in rotation on my stereo for a long while.
Other reviews I've found for the album online are far more accurate. I am disappointed and surprised that Prefix would publish such a mean-spirited review of a solid album.
This review is petty, inaccurate and should be disregarded. Go listen for yourselves.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/prefix/no-user-pic.gif mikeM2

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