Album Review: Art d’Ecco – In Standard Definition

[Paper Bag; 2021]

It seems like the glam-rock genre has slowly been dying out for the past few years, which is quite a shame because it is one of the most unique areas of music, and one that is loaded with so many possibilities. Although the sound isn’t as popular as it once was, Canadian musician and songwriter Art d’Ecco aims to revitalize it and bring it back to its former glory.

Interestingly enough though, d’Ecco wasn’t always the glam-rocker we know him to be today. When he first started out, he had a more traditional soft-rock sound. This can be heard on his 2016 album Day Fevers, but d’Ecco soon felt that it didn’t best suit his musical style. So it was in 2018 when he finally decided to shake things up drastically in terms of his sound. Getting rid of the standard everyman look, instead opting for a Rocky Horror Picture Show-style getup, and changing his sound to be more akin to the likes of David Bowie and David Byrne, he released Trespasser, which was a monumental improvement on his previous album.

It has been two and a half years since we have heard d’Ecco belt it out, but gratefully he is back and better than ever on In Standard Definition, which proves to be a brilliant display of his unique vocals, impressive songwriting talent, and instrumentals which sound transformative and purely hypnotic.

The album opens up with a bang with “Desires”, a meticulously crafted track that perfectly sets the tone for the other 11 to come. There are elements of synth-pop and alternative lining “Desires”, while the steady-drum beat and ravaging guitar make the song an immediate standout. But, the most powerful instrument featured on the song – and the album as a whole – is d’Ecco’s voice, which is bolder than any other actual instrument.

In Standard Definition wonderfully transitions from one track to the next with extreme ease and power. “TV God”, the second song on the album, talks about a larger-than-life figure to be warned of, described as “that face, on the channel.” It’s a figure whose identity we are not made abundantly aware of, but it’s an interesting puzzle to put together. The album touches upon themes of celebrity and pop culture obsession without being too in-your-face about it. One of the best examples of this is displayed in the title track, as d’Ecco says “We’re turning out to an old-time movie / French cinema with the volume off.”

Every once in a while, we are presented with a few interludes that give us a break from the feisty vocals, such as “Channel 7 (Pilot Season)”, which features an ominous synth instrumental that sounds other-worldly and oh-so-weird. It’s a perfect way to describe d’Ecco. He has never fit in with the norm with his music and presentation, but that’s what makes him so great and so fascinating to listen to. Almost every song he makes has a certain sense of childlike wonder to it; you have a general idea of what you’re in store for, but you’re never quite sure of what exactly it is going to look like. It’s a beautiful mashup of the weird and exotic styles of the 1980s mixed with the best and most promising indie/alternative sounds of today. In Standard Definition is possibly going to be far too weird an album for some, but those that are curious about what d’Ecco has to offer should definitely go on this zany musical experience.