Discovery is a collaboration between Wes Miles (the frontman of Ra Ra Riot) and Rostam Batmanglij (the keyboardist of Vampire Weekend). Their fruitful sessions together, during which a few completed tracks and a handful of remixes have floated around music blogs over the past few months, have led to the side project's first full length simply titled "LP". Considering the impressive talent pool involved and those excellent pre-release samples, it's no surprise this record has remained in the stratosphere of indie fans for months now. Now that it's finally hit the streets, the blogs are abuzz with excitement (or at the very least a warm welcome) for these ten tracks. Take note that "LP" is not flawless, but it may very well be one of the most celebrated records of the year, and if nothing else it's without question one of the most fun.
"LP" is glitzy, effervescent, and rife with high-spirited synth riffs and beats. In addition, Discovery utilize auto-tune on a few tracks which gives the vocals that familiar R&B vibe. It's a silly gimmick, borderline kitschy even, but one which is admittedly easy on the ears and undeniably catchy. The key to auto-tune is that it only works if used in moderation, which is why obsessive artists like Kanye West should be kept away from it (of course, I don't think "moderation" is in his vocabulary, but I digress). Perhaps the most laconic way to describe Discovery's sound is to say they're very similar to Passion Pit, whose recent release Manners is a perfect companion disc to "LP".
Though I'm obviously a fan of this record, it's interesting to note that upon the first spin of the disc I was intially unimpressed with the meandering first track "Orange Shirt". It sounds like an underproduced demo, the lack of direction being especially evident halfway through with a repeating synth wave that's more obnoxious than pleasant. It's a welcome surprise, then, to realize that "Orange Shirt" is one of the weakest tracks here. Second track "Osaka Loop Line" (that just sounds like a Vampire Weekend song title, doesn't it?) suitably follows up in much finer style. There's a half acre of glorious synth on this record, and the deeper you go the better it gets.
Seventh track "Carby", clocking in right at a concise three minutes, hooked me from the beginning with the aforementioned auto-tune usage and the prevalent eighties sensibilities permeating every note. I fear that description might undersell the track, because there's no reason to feel that this is derivative work here (even though third track "Can You Discover" is merely a slight re-working of "Can You Tell" by Ra Ra Riot). "LP" is a pitch perfect summer record, whether on a beach or poolside. "Swing Tree" is sunny and upbeat, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" is a trivial yet bouncy tune, and "I Want You Back" is perhaps the most epic track on the record, encapsulating it's lofty amourous ambitions in only three and a half minutes.
Discovery is hardly alone in their genre, one that's becomingly increasingly crowded as it appears to be the 'sound of the moment'. I'm referencing artists like Datarock, Patrick Wolf, Empire of the Sun, Chromeo, Filthy Dukes, Does It Offend You Yeah, Deastro, Friendly Fires etc. These, along with plenty of female fronted acts like Cicada, Ladyhawke, Cansei de Ser Sexy, Little Boots etc. and even some prominent French artists like Viva le Fete and Yelle - all of these fall under the broad umbrella of indie electro pop like the sort found on "LP". This sort of genre over-saturation causes many acts to sound the same after awhile, talent notwithstanding.
Still, Discovery rise to the level of their contemporaries in that there's an earnest facility to their work. There are few modern synth records as grand as "LP", the aforementioned Passion Pit one certainly qualifies. Perhaps most notably The Postal Service delivered a landmark synth record in 2003. Genre champions Cut Copy and MGMT released milestone albums just last year. Yet Discovery isn't trying to emulate these acts, they aren't quite as dance-oriented and favor being energetically brash rather than immediately accessible. "LP" is a warm groove, combining the best elements of both Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot and coalescing them into the synth near-masterpiece you have before you. This is definitely worth shelling out a Hamilton for!
P.S. Isn't that a great album cover? The beauty is in its simplicity.
Also of related interest:
Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend (New album due later this year)
Ra Ra Riot The Rhumb Line
MGMT Oracular Spectacular (New album rumored to be released in Jan. 2010)
Cut Copy In Ghost Colours
Frankmusik Better Off As Two