The duo consisting of Vampire Weekend’s keyboardist, Rostam Batmanglij, and Ra Ra Riot’s singer, Wes Miles, makes a lot more sense than you may think. They were friends even before their respective bands blew up, Batmanglij has production cred with VW and Miles has a voice that would suit almost any moderately paced pop instrumental. When I found out they were making an electronic album together (one that has been in production since 2005), I wondered what exactly they were aiming for.
In a Pitchfork.com interview they revealed some of their original ideas for a Discovery album-use hand claps in every track, use lots of vocal melodies (along with Auto-Tune, the effect T-Pain uses) and have every member of the band play synthesizer. LP was a pop experiment from its conception.
“Orange Shirt” and “Osaka Loop Line” kick off the record and coincidentally were the two songs that made rounds on the Internet long before the album was released on Tuesday. Synthesizers pulse, glitter and climb on “Osaka Loop Line,” and we get our first taste of vocal looping and tempo shifting. Auto-Tune is briskly used to touch up the ends of phrases, and the sound is genuine given the limited instrumentation. Hi-hat ticks are also a Discovery favorite and they show up on “Orange Shirt.”
Ra Ra Riot’s “Can You Tell” is remade and dubbed “Can You Discover?”, and in all its Auto-Tune glory, it’s not all that bad. It just doesn’t match up against the record’s best tracks. I say leave it up to other people to remix your other band’s songs. I guess they came to the realization that nobody was going to inject Auto-Tune into a Ra Ra Riot song any time soon.
The trio of “So Insane,” “Swing Tree” and “Carby” (featuring Ezra Koenig of VW) is quite impressive, and it’s on songs like these where Discovery seems to find their niche in the sea of synthesizers.
Production is crisp, percussion is used fluently to shift speeds drastically and the vocals fit somewhere in the middle. Auto-Tune is taken away for the most part, and the songs wouldn’t have it any other way.
Most of these songs are hit-or-miss, and when they miss it can be quite painful. “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” featuring Angel Deradoorian of Dirty Projectors, is especially bad. Loop Deradoorian’s polished vocal scales with glitchy drum ticks and stalkerish lyrics and you have yourself the worst song on the record.
As a whole, LP is a mixed bag of summery, synth-drenched pop songs that draws less from Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot than expected. A few tracks bring down the overall quality and replayability.
The problem here is what’s under the surface. At times it seems like the hooks are the mainstay, which is aggravating for Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot fans because while irony is one thing in music, using it to create an overall experience is another, and lyrically it definitely lacks in comparison to the duo’s other outfits.