Arcade Fire's Tim Kingsbury steps out on his own with a winning, engaging solo project full of analog synths and killer hooks.
As Arcade Fire’s bass player, Tim Kingsbury lives in the relative shadow of that band’s more visible members. Brothers Win and Will Butler, in particular, have far more name recognition, especially to the casual fan (not to mention the fact that Will has released two acclaimed solo albums over the past couple of years). But since the summer of 2014, Kingsbury has been quietly creating solo work of his own, in what would become a project known as Sam Patch. This week sees the long-awaited release of those efforts, Yeah You, and I.
Sam Patch is essentially a Kingsbury solo project, as he sings and plays most of the instruments himself, along with the help of a handful of collaborators (including Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara, who plays drums on six of the album’s eight songs). The result is a rather simple, tuneful, straightforward, almost demo-like collection of songs that throw around a few different influences and styles but still manage to stick to a relatively straight line of execution.
The songs have an innocent directness that’s welcoming and refreshing. The first couple of songs bop along in a relatively uncomplicated manner with melodies slowly and breezily coming out of the woodwork. “Must Have Been an Oversight” and “100 Decibels” are almost interchangeable with their four-on-the-floor beats, strumming acoustic guitars and engaging analog synth riffs (most of the songs have no dead air between them, creating something of a light “concept album” feel). It’s not until “Waiting to Wait” that Kingsbury begins to tweak the formula ever so slightly. Here he seems to channel ‘80s new wave ska with bright drums and fresh hooks. It brings to mind the effortless college radio pop of Split Enz or Nik Kershaw.
Elsewhere, the grooves get a little more varied with songs like “Listening", a wonderful glam rock gem that gives Kingsbury a welcome opportunity to flex his rock muscles a bit. But this is eventually countered with “Never Meant No Harm", where he goes full Vampire Weekend with playful synths and exotic drums. Picture Brian Eno raiding Paul Simon’s Graceland recording session and you’ve got a general idea.
It may not be until the closing track, “Up All Night", that you realize Kingsbury’s motives. By luring you in with sweet melodies, bouncy beats and an arsenal of vintage synths, he’s all over the map, stylistically, and has taken you on an engaging musical journey. The woozy folk balladry of the song is part Robyn Hitchcock, part Bob Geldof, with maybe just a touch of Leonard Cohen thrown in for good measure. A perfect, “last call” way to end an album that shows Tim Kingsbury making a name for himself as more than just a bass player in one of indie rock’s most recognizable bands.