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[Jagjaguwar; 2010]

By ; June 22, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

When Prince shows up at one of your band’s shows and threatens to take the stage alongside you, then it’s probably safe to say you’re doing something right. Gayngs, a rather unfortunately named indie supergroup led by Ryan Olson, features such other diverse talents as Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Michael Lewis (from Andrew Bird’s touring band), P.O.S. (Rhymesayers) and all three members of Megafaun.

Their music basically pays homage to that lovably cheesy 1980s soft-rock/jazz hybrid that dominated the airwaves for much of the decade and which you’ve probably heard your parents (or, maybe grandparents) listening to before. That’s really all you need to know in order to place the group’s sound – you should be well aware, going into this, of whether you’ll appreciate it or not.

That being said, it’s striking how earnest Gayngs’ music sounds on Relayted, their debut album. In this glorious age of hipster mentality (I’m being overtly sarcastic here, so I guess I’m a victim of the mindset), I must confess to expecting something a bit more heavy-handed and tongue-in-cheek and perhaps even a little smug. The truth is that these tunes feel pretty organic and lovingly crafted; not ironic or post-ironic or postpartum ironic but genuine.

Which isn’t to say the album is particularly memorable – listen to it in one sitting and it all kind of blends together, songs seamlessly surging forward into other songs like a run-on sentence, and not more than a couple tracks will particularly stand out on their own merits (“Cry” gets the vote for best song). Relayted essentially contains the dynamics of an extended jam session – a bunch of talented and like-minded musicians getting together, having fun, and creating some cool enough melodies with solid production. (And yes, the production is overwrought, the mixing is unsubtle and the ubiquitous saxophone tends to squeal sensuously like something from one of those late-‘80s “erotic thrillers” that weren’t ever quite erotic or thrilling, but always featured plenty of sax). Criticizing the album’s production, in this regard, seems a bit self-defeating; the music sounds exactly how it should.

I’m not well-versed enough in the band’s genre to give you comparisons to other groups from the 1980s. I’m not sure I’d want to or if it would really matter much. What I can tell you is that this is likable enough soft-rock, not nearly as mean-spirited or sarcastic in its delivery as I was expecting it to be, and just enjoyable enough to listen to without necessarily being moved one way or the other.


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