[18 September 2011]
The name Tom Vek has hardly ascended to household stature, but the paradox-friendly and bespectacled British solo man would probably be even less known if he weren’t so musically unproductive. Unlike most other artists of his generation, in the six years it took to follow up 2005’s somewhat groundbreaking We Have Sound, Vek shunned all social networking platforms and kept to himself. By going the zipped tight route, Vek has cocooned his work in a largely unmatched air of speculation. It is rather a shame, then, that new release Leisure Seizure isn’t quite worthy of the conjecture preceding it.
As a follow up to We Have Sound, Leisure Seizure works much better than its time gap suggests. Those who are already fans can rejoice in the return of all the fuzzy, fast-paced idiosyncrasies that constitute the Tom Vek listening experience. For the uninitiated, however, there is little on Leisure Seizure compelling enough to make one say, “Hmm … that Tom Vek guy. Maybe I should check him out”.
Of course, for someone as intriguing as Vek, Leisure Seizure is far from a slog, sometimes even reaching near-dizzying highs. Like Vek himself, the hooks sprinkled throughout his songs are unobtrusive and more pleasing for it. The nice, stutter-y opening to “A Chore” is far less irritating than it would be in the hands of more confrontational and less restrained artists, and “A.P.O.L.O.G.Y.” is a nice ‘90’s indie throwback tune with an excellent spell-it-out chorus. “Aroused” is possibly Leisure Seizure‘s most blatantly catchy song, with an opening that instantly primes the listener for dancing and a buzzworthy video featuring living fashion magazine ads smoking cigarettes in very animated ways.
Vek could easily allow his dance-riffy, lo-fi-indebted rock to set him apart, but what really makes him stand alone is his singing voice—it is casual to the point of being divisive. Much like the paradox of gaining popularity through withholding, Vek’s voice is distinct because it is so unspectacular. In a way, Vek’s talk-singing approach is novel and gives the music a less forced air; other times, however, his nonchalance threatens to make a listener care less about the music. In an interview with music website The Quietus, Vek said, “I don’t really feel that music is a medium for me to get across a direct message to anyone. It is all kind of a collage of soundbites and a scattergun of interesting phrases”. This lack of preciousness in discussing one’s craft is refreshing, but when Vek’s voice is so blasé and his lyrics are a ways from the Beck standard of stream-of-consciousness collage, it makes one feel that, with Leisure Seizure, a fair amount of opportunities were missed.
It may not be the most obvious comparison to draw, but Tom Vek is a good counterpoint to an indie solo artist such as Patrick Wolf. Both young men have put their own signature of electronic-tinged pop and strive to make the musical landscape more interesting, but where Wolf’s songs are sometimes the victim of excess, Vek leaves one struggling to discern what ingredient his songs are missing. Here’s hoping Vek takes less than six years to reveal the answer to the question of what it is he’s missing.