The bewildering eyesore that adorns the cover of Oakland songwriter Still Woozy’s debut album, If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is, would make most music listeners cringe. It’s hopefully an intentional joke, but, nevertheless, the look on his face smacks of a kindhearted burnout who’s unsure of how to climb out of the four-foot sand pit he woke up in. The 13 tracks that make up If This Isn’t Nice don’t necessarily explain how he got into the hole, nor does it explain what the hole represents, it’s just a fun image he probably made in MS Paint.
The solo project of Sven Eric Gamsky – formerly of proclaimed math rock act Feed Me Jack, a short-lived project from the mid-2010s – blends genres like he’s pissing on a freshly-painted mural, allowing different colors to run into others shamelessly. Across the album, Gamsky experiments with indie rock, hip-hop, dance-funk, and chillwave – among many others.
All of this is accomplished under glossy style of production that isn’t rare these days, but it’s worth noting since all the music here is 100% him – an admirable feat for a bedroom artist. It’s this nurturing approach that gives the somewhat generic feel of Still Woozy’s music a splash of charm. The final product may sound like most of the horse shit poisoning commercial radio, but Still Woozy’s music does have some petunias growing out of it.
This is guilty pleasure music, the kind of tunes that require little thought and can easily be forgotten about if not directly in your face. As moronic as the lyrics may be, “That’s Life” is a warm slice of nostalgia circa 2007-2009; “She’s my guiding star / she’s my tarot cards,” he says, while propped up by funk-infused beats and just a dab of autotune. Almost every beat or tick is predictable, like on “Woopie” where Still Woozy gets woozy for some woopie but is attacked by self-doubt as he begs the question “Why would you want me? / Why would you care?”
“Woof” is the jaunty opener, bringing unbridled energy that forces the knees to slap and thighs to quake on the dance floor, a result Still Woozy is most assuredly banking on. The semi-synthetic vocals are nothing new, but Woozy employs them conservatively, which is the right call. Most of the album follows a similarly foreseeable route, one could envision Gamsky spinning a wheel and just going with whichever genre it lands on, then tacking on lyrics about getting dumped or sex. See the appropriately titled “Get Down”: “She wanna get down, I wanna get down / We’re gonna get down, so / she gonna take me.”
When Woozy does step out of bounds it’s less juvenile. “Kenny” might be his best track to date, with a somber melody that keeps a solid pace with his emo-laden vocals; “Don’t pay me no mind, I’ll be fine / I’ll pull myself together this time.” It’s the kind of sad-sack pop that might soundtrack a teen comedy’s denouement when the oblivious prom queen realizes the obsessive and quasi-stalker dork was the love of her life the whole time. As disposable as Still Woozy’s music is, it’s kind of like eating melted Velveeta on gourmet crab cakes – it doesn’t make sense, we might even wanna look away in horror, but holy shit is it tasty.