The immediate point of comparison that comes to mind the first time the sounds of Svoy enter one’s ears is The Postal Service. Aphex Twin-lite beats, sincere lyrics, and a distinct lack of guitars mark Svoy’s debut album Eclectric, a combination that serves Svoy relatively well, though he does tend to undercut his talent with the mediocrity of faceless radio pop.
Before we get to that, though, we should give a look to tracks like album opener “Driving Away”, which is everything that Svoy can (and, really, should) be. All pianos and drum ‘n’ bass beats, it has the makings of a perfect intro to an expertly-produced mix of the frenetic and the sublimely beautiful. Svoy’s breathy vocals appear soon after, betraying little in the way of acrobatics, though what he lacks in pure skill, he makes up for with sharp, potent pop hooks. And then there’s the beautiful, transcendent chorus—multitracking his voice into at least four parts, allowing distortion and a perfectly scatterbrained distorted bass synth into the instrumental mix, and combining it all with words like “there must be an exit… somewhere”, well, it’s the perfect execution of an idea, the perfect meshing of the electronic underground with sunny pop Hollywood.
The problem is—and this seems to happen a lot, when it comes to artists that happen on that lightning in a bottle that is a perfectly executed mix of genres—there are 11 other tracks. Svoy has a wonderful idea of who he wants to be, and an opening track that serves as the ultimate mission statement, but he spends so much of the album trying to live up to that standard that he seems to forget what makes a song like “Driving Away” so great in the first place.
Only four tracks into Eclectic, the nadir hits—“On My Own”, an up-with-ME anthem that is so flighty and free and happy and utterly devoid of any sort of emotion as to barely exist at all. It has a swingy beat, tinkly electronics, and copious falsetto on its ingredients list, all of it adding up to something that couldn’t compete with a Nick Lachey deep cut. Successive tracks serve the purpose of pointing out just how limited Svoy’s vocal range actually is, as he barely traverses a single octave without getting falsetto involved, and while the breathy-voiced thing sounds like earnestness at the beginning, it starts to sound more like imperfection hiding by the end. “One Night Stand” features the repetitiveness of trance anthems without the benefit of a danceable beat, and “Stronger than Wind” is the sound of fifth-grade poetry set to pop production: “Rather be a flag with no flutter / Rather be a book with no shelf / Rather be a stream with no water / But rather be a thunder myself”, he says, and as you ponder what the hell that could possibly mean, you wonder why it couldn’t at least have been given a catchy melody or rhythm if it wasn’t going to make any sense.
Granted, not everything on the album that isn’t “Driving Away” is necessarily a lost cause; there’s a pretty, wispy little shell of a song called “I Don’t Love” that is pleasant, if not quite absorbing. “Make You Mine” makes some lovely, full chords with string synths, and punctuating it with a personal bit in Svoy’s native Russian was a nice touch. Even the seven-minute “Shy” has its moments of beauty, slightly spoiled by context.
Perhaps the fact that English is not Svoy’s first language is hurting his lyrics. Perhaps the fact that Eclectric is his first album is hurting his music. Still, he’s obviously capable, as evidenced by that one perfect little track. If ever there was a candidate for downloading the single and ignoring the album, Eclectric is it—refine the formula, and maybe in a few years’ time we’ll see The Postal Service being compared to Svoy, rather than the other way around. For now, you could do worse than this more poppy knockoff.
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// Notes from the Road
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