Dent May makes silly music and he’s done a fair job keeping that up for his last few years of being prominent. It’s the way he inflects his voice, the way his cutesy lyrics flow off his tongue, and the overall jauntiness that has made us understand exactly who he is, and though he takes a turn with Do Things, it’s obviously a Dent May album thanks to all of the above. Unfortunately, some of the personality that stood out on The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magical Ukelele has become a tad robotic over time, especially with the new record’s primarily electronic facet.
If you can recall anything from the now-three year-old album, you’ll know Dent May’s ukelele played front-and-center with his voice. I mean, come on, it’s in the title, that thing was integral to the way that record sounded. Very little of this sound is detectable on Do Things and it’s replaced with a throwback electro-pop feeling that ends up sounding like a viable progression in his realm of cheesy music. Lyrically, he can still produce a pretty good hook: “Don’t wanna be chasing that rent money for the rest of my life/ Just need somebody to hold me at night,” and as mismatched as the motivation of the lyrics get on Do Things, that’s where a lot of the charm remains in play.
Dent May flirts with the idea of making summer jams of years past and in that respect the album makes a fairly successful effort, but there isn’t a lot else under the hood. The music is simple, as it is designed to be, and when you’re hoping he’ll make something sweeping, like past single “Eastover Wives,” he stays in a very safe zone of these designated summer jams, which is where the album begins to lack in emotion or even its goal of being enjoyable summer music. What acts as an arguably strong opening to the album becomes a slag for the next 18 minutes of songs — the “summer fun” becomes a little too much to handle.
Perhaps the thing that prevents the album from being completely unbearable in the second half is its consistent addition of psychedelic instrumentation. It gives Do Things a little more personality than it normally would have with regular, rote pop songs that sound same-y. The keyboard on “Find It,” for instance, breaks out of the layers of breeze and stillness and makes the rest of the track feel more active than most of the others, and while it speaks louder than other tracks, it doesn’t quite save it until the end. On “Home Groan,” the album’s closer, Dent May sings of wanting to stay home while Los Angeles and New York just aren’t doing it for him. It’s a song that sounds a bit different, just in time to leave a fair impression of the album in memory, but it doesn’t last for very many listens.
Ironically titled Do Things, it really doesn’t promote doing things all that much. The record sounds tired, dreamy, and wasted in the daylight at five in the afternoon– it tries to be breezy, but instead still feels like 99 degrees of heat. Do Things is not much of a cure as it is an accompaniment to the worse parts of summer: the sunburns, forgetting what day of the week it is, and wishing coolness wasn’t so tough to come by thanks to your perfectly timed broken air conditioner, but that doesn’t stop Dent May trying to make light of it all.