Myron & E’s debut album, Broadway, slots them next to any number of soul singers steeped in the ’60s and early ’70s: Mayer Hawthorne (especially that first album), Kendra Morris, or James Hunter. What sets Myron and E apart from this group of similarly-minded soul artists is the ever-present string section. Myron and E’s soul is highly orchestral, but not in the grand manner of Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, or Barry White; think more in the melancholy tradition of recent indie-pop groups.
Myron & E, Myron Glasper and Eric Cooke, have been kicking around since 2008, when they put out the “Cold Game” 7-inch record; five years later, Broadway is their first full-length. They’ve been working with the Soul Investigators, a group of soul aficionados from Helsinki, Finland who made an album with Calypso King in 2001, and more recently served as the vehicle of expression for Nicole Willis on her last two albums. Like the soul-funk bands in New York (the Dap-Kings, for example), the Soul Investigators are powerful and elastic, expert at emulating the work of Booker T. & the MG’s, any of James Brown’s bands, and sometimes Motown’s Funk Brothers.
Broadway starts with a strong declaration of purpose. A drum slowly feels its way into a beat before being joined by a walking bass line, an organ, and a rhythm guitar. “We live in a world where there’s so much misery…so much pain,” sings Myron (or E), and then they harmonize softly in a Tyrone Davis (or R. Kelly) homage: “Turn back, turn back, turn back the hands of time”. It connects Myron & E with R&B’s history and its periodic commitment to social commentary.
It’s sort of a bait-and-switch though, as most of the rest of the album’s songs are romantic in nature. “If I Gave You My Love” follows the stair-step horns of the New Yorkers in the Menahan Street Band. “Do It Do It Disco” has the album’s firmest beat and sharpest horn stabs, though the gently synchronized duetting of Myron and E–which occurs throughout the album–doesn’t quite achieve disco’s sense of joy and abandon.
But the strings make the strongest impression. Sometimes it sounds as if Myron & E are backed by the chamber-indie pop of another Scandinavian group, the Kings Of Convenience. The album’s title track in particular is in the vein of the Kings’ “I’d Rather Dance With You”. But “Broadway” isn’t alone; violins sweep and weep everywhere, with lots of little, micro-level runs and modulations. Myron & E can overplay this card at times, but it shows a way of moving past soul emulation, towards soul creation.