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Though he was just a teenager when he held down the keyboard chair on punk legend Richard Hell's 1990 comeback tour, it took a while for Jesse Hartman to get back into music. The Long Island native decided he'd rather become a moviemaker instead, attending film school and writing Happy Hour, which won the Best Short Film award at the 1993 Berlin International Film Festival. He also directed videos for several bands, including Helmet and Christmas. When Hartman did return to the world of tunes, it was as a member of the Pavement-inspired indie-rock act Sammy, with his college friend Luke Wood. The group made a major-label debut, Tales of Great Neck Glory (named after Hartman's hometown), but split shortly after the album's release in 1996. Hartman then dropped out of sight, re-emerging three years later under the alias Laptop, with a strikingly '80s-influenced sound on the EP Users Guide. That outing, full of sarcasm and synth-funk grooves, was a taster for Hartman's full-length 2001 debut, Opening Credits. Reportedly assembled on an IBM Thinkpad, the album featured lacerating electro-pop like "Greatest Hits," a danceable run through a list of ex-girlfriends, the gleefully bitter "I'm So Happy You Failed," as well as a robotic take on the Billy Joel oldie "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." Then Hartman toured the songs alone, with only an engineer onstage for company. He released the second Laptop album, The Old Me Vs. the New You, in the fall of 2001. ~ Dan LeRoy

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Years Active:

'90s, '00s