Written Arjun Ray
In an age where past music eras are callously regurgitated to promote slick pop, it’s hard to find music that is earnestly retro. This Wednesday night at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, you can get your fill of vocalists performing in honest styles that span decades of popular music. Myron & E directly tap into old school R&B, Davis Fetter reaches back further to 50s pop, and Moses Sumney plays modern soul in a minimal acoustic form. The Bootleg is about 3 miles away from the new home of Unraveled Founder and Art Director, Farida Amar. If you show up, you very well might see her there!
Myron & E
These two met as backup singer and DJ for the superb hip-hop act Blackalicious, and over many years since, drifted from hip-hop to a love of classic soul and R&B. Their music is pure nostalgia, steeped in the traditions of soul music played between the 60s and 70s. The tracks evoke that smell of dust set adrift from a forgotten album jacket, carpeted basements, and old wood-faced HiFi systems. For anyone who grew up with the classic sounds of Motown in their parents’ stereos, Myron & E sound like home. There are no fancy production tricks here. The orchestration is honest, ranging from 3 horn stabs, to clean guitars, organ, drums and bass. The vocals are the star of the show, featuring Myron Glasper’s high pleading voice paired with E’s gravely lows in well executed unisons and subtle harmonies. Certain rock genres have embraced the dual lead guitar, but these two showcase the dual lead in it’s original vocal form. While the rhythms will get between your shoulders and the bright melodies may leave you humming, the lyrics focus on the difficulties of love, appealing directly to lovers for hope and understanding. Myron & E underline the definition of classic: music that never becomes outdated even if it grows old.
Davis Fetter writes songs about loneliness bathed in the innocent ennui of 50s teenage pop. On his Soundcloud, the only information provided is the quote, “I’ve never been in love, but I deserve the same as anyone.” Whether or not his isolation is dramatics or real, he still manages to connect with that beatific sense of loneliness that a few of us wallowed in during our youth; a romantic sense of lack, classic and timeless in the annals of pop. He sings yearning for platitudes of love; panaceas of fantasy romance from a hopeless have-not. He has a patently unique voice – sweet, almost choir-boy like, yet weathered around the edges by rocky transitions from teenage years into young adulthood. That voice would stand out even if he were only singing Happy Birthday. He can croon melancholy and wistful, as well as he can expertly tease a rock and roll screech out from the back back of his throat. The instrumentation varies from heart-thump ballads, to bluesy garage rockers with a definite 80s post-punk tint. If you are a fan of Elvis Costello or Buddy Holly, you really ought to go see Davis and his band lay down some modern classics.
Armed with only a guitar and his voice, Moses Sumney presents a sublime love triangle between vocal cadence, lyrical meaning, and songwriting. With just an acoustic guitar and his voice, Moses performs stripped-bare acoustic soul music. He alternates between falsetto and powerful throaty notes, his vibrato betrays a certain wildness hiding within his controlled vocals, and he ends his phrases with enchanting trails of vocal melody. Vocal character abounds, but all of his affectations convey honest emotion. He fingerpicks acoustic guitar, casually toying with latin jazz chords. The music is easy to listen to and sounds effortless, yet the whole package as singer, writer, and player is masterful. His lyrics show Moses as a clever wordsmith, exploring difficult questions in a poetic, philosophical manner. Moses is like that one standout at a coffeehouse that startles you awake after a string of unmemorable singer songwriters.