The opening of Cassettes Won’t Listens third album, EVINSPACEY, features Jason Drake’s voice, amplified as if at a large show and speaking over the top of a chorus of derogatory yells, saying “this one is the first song from my new album.” It’s a simple encapsulation of both Drake’s vision for the future of his bedroom project – playing to large audiences, and his sense of humour – the boos coming from his created audience. This juxtaposition of serious with lighthearted is consistent throughout EVINSPACEY, which makes it one of the most unpredictable and frustrating of the year.
The undoubted highlights of the album are when Drake settles down and puts together a mostly-vocalless piece of electronic music with emphasis on the lower frequencies. They’re not necessarily complex, but the little additional layers that he adds to these tracks give them an entrancing quality that makes you want to vigorously nod your head with the beat, which is, I assume, his basic goal with Cassettes Won’t Listen. These songs – “The Night Shines,” “Stuck” and “Pick Me Out” in particular – are all quite dark, both in their sound and lyrical themes, and EVINSPACEY would have been much more successful had it remained focussed on this type of sound.
However, these sit alongside tracks that are overtly sunny pop. It may be too soon to say that a song’s sound is indebted to the 2000s, but that is exactly what tracks like “Perfect Day” and “Wave To The Winners” are. The lyrics and melodies pretty much stolen straight from the wheelhouse of last decade’s alternative pop, and for “Perfect Day” it works perfectly – Drake’s kaleidoscopic electronics, acoustic guitar and piano turn the cliché phrase “look out the window on a perfect day” into something cinematic and believable. On the other hand “Wave to the Winners” is much too saccharine and sounds like something that would fit on an Owl City album.
An even more frustrating indication of the album’s lack of focus is the songs that aren’t really songs. “Kingdom” has a huge drum beat, brilliantly hypnotic blips and even a humongously awesome horn interjection; but the song is curtailed at 1.35, leaving it merely as an interlude when it had the potential to be an album highlight. “Harp Darkness” is as demo-sounding as its title suggests, but the delicately plucked harp interspersing the dense electronics were the basis of a very good song, which, unfortunately will probably never be made. And the bizarre concluding track “Waiting” is another that is little more than a demo; its mosaic of colourful electronic blips leading nowhere and ending the album in a most unsatisfactory manner.
Despite the frustrating schizophrenic nature of the album, EVINSPACEY beholds more than a handful of engrossing and relatively original songs. The levels of electronics that come in and out subtly, but skilfully, on the album’s best songs are an indication of how much time Jason Drake has put into them. It’s just a shame that this shines light more intensely on the songs where he didn’t.
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