Music

Slow Dancer: In a Mood

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

The indie answer to John Mayer's Continuum, In a Mood is a smooth collection of indie pop with a jazzy, '70s gloss.


Slow Dancer

In a Mood

Label: ATO
US Release Date: 2017-06-09
UK Release Date: 2017-06-09
Amazon
iTunes

The sophomore album by Slow Dancer, In a Mood, is slightly out of time. Slow Dancer, the name taken up by Australian social worker and singer/songwriter Simon Okely, could easily be lumped in with a smattering of late 2000s and early 2010s musical sub-genres. Being a handsome, affable white dude on an independent label, Okely obviously invites the "indie" label. The light brushstrokes of jazz and R&B locates In a Mood (as well as Slow Dancer's 2014 debut, Surrender) in the constellation that is alternative/indie R&B, particularly variants like "ethereal R&B" and perhaps even the more comical "PBR&B". Okley's take on R&B's stylistics is informed by his singer/songwriter disposition, rather than the echoey electronics and spacey demeanor of groups like Beacon. This but one of the many ways that, despite its obvious kinship to the genre tends that surround it, In a Mood -- and the Slow Dancer project as a whole – distinguishes itself from its contemporaries.

In hearing the catchy and oh-so-slick chorus of "Don't Believe", the lead single off of In a Mood, a more obvious sonic descendant suggests itself. Okeley's closest sonic companion is not the swath of Brooklyn-based bands tinkering with R&B, but rather John Mayer, specifically the John Mayer of Continuum. The composite elements align nicely: the smooth but not-too-glossy production, a chilled-out vibe, and some well-placed jazzy guitar. "Don't Believe" might even be called "Slow Dancer in a Burning Room."

This is no knock against Okeley -- far from it -- even though Mayer's fall from grace following 2009's Battle Studies due to several off-hand racist and sexist remarks has resulted in his name's becoming a negative connotation. While Mayer's abandoning of Continuum's jazzy songwriter blues in favor of Laurel Canyon country on records like Born & Raised and Paradise Valley is better than most give it credit for, the Continuum style represents Mayer's strongest work, and an aesthetic that clearly exhibits potential for greater exploration. Mayer's newest record, The Search for Everything, does call back to Continuum somewhat, but In a Mood one-ups Mayer at that game. Tuneful and atmospheric, Slow Dancer's second record capitalizes on a style that still affords songwriters some exploration.

In a Mood hovers largely in the slow-to-mid-tempo range, with the exception of the more upbeat number "Bitter", whose Fleetwood Mac-indebted chorus weaves together clean electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and piano plinks to memorable effect. A consequence of this slow smolder is that Okely runs the risk of committing a key mistake of his "alt-R&B" colleagues. In his review of Ejecta's Dominae for PopMatters, Gary Suarez writes,

The rise of alternative / indie / whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it R&B frequently borders on farce, with its growing crop of mostly white artists regularly finding astounding new ways to desexualize an urban genre known for its libidinous content... these artsy eunuchs seem perfectly content with lust being reduced to a nuisance akin to post-nasal drip.

Throughout its concise running time, In a Mood maintains its velvety production quality and moderate tempo. At times the music doesn't feel exactly like what WFUV said of Slow Dancer's music: "This is old-school, baby-making stuff." The instrumentation on In a Mood, all performed by the talented Okely himself, is quite sharp -- the bass playing in particular stands out -- but it often lapses into, to amend WFUV's phrase, "vanilla baby-making stuff". The frequent placidity of In a Mood results in a monochromatic emotionality from the music. The dusky title track and the sultry "I've Been Thinking" close out the album nicely, but even the appealing features of both tracks -- the oily bassline on the former, the spacious reverb on the latter -- feel repetitive of the eight preceding songs.

That In the Mood's aesthetic gets stretched thin, however, doesn't mean that it's untenable. The album's numerous high points make it worth more than a few spins: the effervescent chorus of "Bitter", the sleek guitar on "Don't Believe", and the guitar/piano interplay on "I Was Often" evince Okely's multi-instrumental skill. On its sophomore LP, Slow Dancer lingers too long in one mood, but it's an undeniably inviting mood.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image