Electric Guest, Mondo
A debut with glossy retro soul
On their debut record, the L.A. duo Electric Guest tap into the sort of glossy retro soul that Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse re-popularized and Adele, Janelle MonaÃ© and others helped spread across the land. With the help of omnipresent collaborator-for-hire Danger Mouse, though, they render what has threatened to become a wearyingly ubiquitous sound with a clean and handsome touch.
“Waves” and single “The Head I Hold” are such archetypal examples of the form that they could pass for unreleased Gnarls Barkley tunes, but singer Asa Taccone nimbly distinguishes himself with a girlish, Southern-accented delivery to nimble effect, which Danger Mouse graces with an evocative touch of period-detail static. Midtempo versions of the same neo-Motown sound crop up in “The Bait,” “Awake” and “Under the Gun,” with swelling backing vocals adding some anthemic heft to the gently earworming tunes. It’s almost Disney Channel in its wholesomeness, but the band’s fleet-footed drum fills and puckish piano chords keep the vibe sprightly rather than bland or saccharine.
Slower numbers aim at the lulling psychedelia of Danger Mouse’s Broken Bells project with varying success, but this style yields the album’s strongest track in “Troubleman.” Taccone takes the cock-rock clichÃ© of its central lyric, “She’s got it bad for me,” and makes it cool and ambiguous amid a tale of arid courtship; the beautiful melody is allowed to ebb in and out across nine minutes. This is the duo and producer at their best — the former bringing timeless and tangibly Californian songwriting, the latter turning the base metals of acoustic guitar, handclaps and voice into sonic gold.