Music News

mellowdrone

Jonathan Bates's claim that his major-label debut was "lovingly recorded in a bedroom" is slightly misleading: With his solo career in a fledgling state, Bates caught the attention of Tony Berg, an A&R executive who signed both Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Beck. Soon after, the magic of studio-enhanced remastering transformed his casual, homemade EP/demo into something densely layered and commercially polished. Not that it's a detriment to the Florida native's music or his concise way of crafting a tune. Running the gamut from sorrow to agony in less than thirty minutes, Bates has written a half-dozen accessible, minor-chord-driven pop songs that lament everything from the mass media ("Fashionably Uninvited") to fractured singer-songwriter delirium ("Beautiful Day"). Consider it all a teasing hors d'oeuvre at an abbreviated feast. It tastes pretty good but leaves you unsatisfied and still hungry.

Bates seems to understand the value of introversion as well as Lou Barlow ever did; such detachment gives him a worldview that mistrusts damn near everything under the sun. In one of his most self-absorbed moments, the self-described "sarcastic little bitch" suddenly realizes that he's been fretting too much over a relationship ("Bitelip"): "Nothing left to complain about/No more drinking/No more going out/No more violence/No more bravery/No more intercourse/No more easy/Just a handshake/From me to you/Scaly skin disease has gotten inside of you." Yikes. No more intercourse?

With melodic distinction, Bates can turn a corrosive sing-along into something that transcends mere melancholy ("No More Options"), then tear the Band-Aid from an open gash in one fell swoop: It's over before you know it. And when he sings "I'd honestly slam my hand in a car door just to shut you up" ("And Repeat"), you can't help but smile and want to call his bluff.

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John La Briola