With a sound as big as its name, Electric Guest’s debut, Mondo has emerged from a six-year gestation fully formed and friendly, hitting the ears with the ease of absolutely perfect, sun-soaked pop. This L.A. duo cuts the difference between back-up vocals and bass beats, soul power and sexy slithering, to create undeniably catchy numbers aimed wide, but shooting sharp.
More than the sexy-nothingness lyrical content of much of today’s pop, Mondo sings sweetly and accessibly about almost anything but. Lead singer and songwriter Asa Taccone’s words focus on a larger worldview, matching pessimistic snapshots of society with an ultimately carefree shrug, stuck in-between jangling upbeats and shoulder-shaking bass. In “Waves,” a perfect example of this contradictory compliment, Asa sings, “They say it’s never easy when you’re 23/ But maybe that’s a lie and it’s just ha-arder on me” over a clap-happy sound that would put Buddy Holly to shame.
The shadow of Danger Mouse, who approached Electric Guest and offered to lend his superstar producer powers to their project, stretches long over some songs. Mondo has a similar vibe to Gnarls Barkley, particularly in the way that it merges retro-romantic sounds like constant claps with a more modern dance sensibility, creating a lush backdrop for Asa’s jazzy falsetto, particularly in songs like “This Head I Hold.”
But while the band channels some of Gnarls’ positive vibes and production tricks, Electric Guest ended up with more memorable tracks – virtually the entire album. (“Amber” is the only track that isn’t the color of my energy.) “Troubleman” is an absolutely epic, almost western number, running close to nine minutes and dipping in and out of its own structure, breaking its narrative to start another, only to weave them both beautifully together for the finale. “Awake,” another favorite, coasts along with a solo sidewalk stomp that transitions into a breathy shared chorus before slowing down into a walking dream.
Mondo is an extremely well-executed debut that reads like an instant sunny-weather classic – great for dancing or for driving through sunshine. Even more than that, it’s a promising album for its heartfelt and soul-searching numbers meant for the masses – songs that sing purposefully, without weighing themselves down. With an album this addictive and hopeful, I expect nation-wide success will be a breeze for these dudes.
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
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