A Slice of Fried Gold

A Regrettable Discovery

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Discovery - LP

Every year, there are the albums that you are really hyped about that end up being everything you thought they could be and more. Then there are the albums that sneak up on you that you end up loving. Then there is the third and far more inferior category of the album that you hyped yourself up for and up being really disappointing. Sadly, the dance-electro-pop collaboration between Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij and Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles ends up being in the third class, despite my initial excitement for the new group called Discovery.

After hearing about a project combining two very talented musicians (and two very good guest stars in Dirty Projectors chantreuse Angel Deradoorian and VW's Ezra Koenig) and then listening to the two opening tracks ("Orange Shirt" and "Osaka Loop Line"), I was incredibly excited. Those two tracks really are stunners, especially personal summer jam "Orange Shirt," which manages to really capture what they are going for into a single track better than anything else on the album. Of course, it is never a good idea to peak on the first track, but that is an entirely different story.

The third track "Can You Discover?" really sounds like a dance version of a Vampire Weekend track, with the synth beats Rostam drops being a head bopper for the Cardigan set and the electro-pop set alike. DP's Deradoorian really gives the following track "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" interesting vocal layering, and the track as a whole is one that definitely jumps off the page as well as its beats and production are just unique enough to intrigue and just familiar enough to really engage you. "So Insane" follows those two up with something that feels more 80's electro than anything else, especially during the breakdown part at the 1:26 mark. Just an extremely solid and fun track.

Right about here is where the album starts taking a turn though, as through four listens track number six "Swing Tree" has yet to even make a dent on me. It's the most vanilla of the first seven, and sets you up for a major tonal shift as it starts sinking into more muddled electro. "Carby" is a track that features VW's lead singer Ezra Koenig, but a version of him that is a bizarre and altered version him that is auto-tuned to the point of unrecognizability at times. It's a toe tapper and intermittently very good, but the decision to remove the charm of Ezra's voice (obviously not a conscious choice, as they were trying to enhance it) was a terrible one.

At this point, the album essentially jumps off a cliff. Their cover of Michael Jackson "I Want You Back" is so horrendously decimated by auto-tune and disgustingly cheesy beats, I find it hard not to skip it almost every listen. To be honest, it is everything I don't want in a cover. "It's Not My Fault (It's My Fault)" manages to be another one like "Swing Tree" where nothing really is terribly wrong, it's just extremely plain and has nothing that hooks into you. The beats are a lot more generic and feel rehashed from the first half, as they do on album closer "Slang Tang." It's as if they used all of their best ideas on the first half and were like "well...that first half was good...let's do that again!" "Slang Tang" brings back the same staccato synth beats (ala the VW beats remade into synth) from "Can You Discover?", but more faded and far less interesting.

Really, it's a tale of two halves. If they just took tracks one through five and seven and crafted an extended EP, this would be an absolute success for their debut. However, to me the decision to include the last three tracks and the remarkably plain "Swing Tree" brings it down from a complete success to being an album that suffers from rehashed beats and vocals completely decimated by auto-tune. It's a decent debut that is not as high quality as I hoped it to be, but it has a nice highlight reel. Click below to stream it yourself off their site.

Discovery - LP: C


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