Singer and multi-instrumentalist James Pants (real name James Singleton) has been on fire since his debut album, “Welcome,” was released in 2008 to positive reviews.
Since then, he has released a second full album, “Seven Seals,” two EPs and a slew of singles through Stones Throw Records (Madlib, Aloe Blacc, Dam-Funk and others). Now, his fifth release and third LP is slated for release May 3. And it does not disappoint.
The album is self-titled and features Singleton at his best. It was originally named “Love Kraft,” but this was likely changed after it was discovered that Super Furry Animals had released an album of the same name in 2005.
His superb drumming, groovy bass lines and lush synthesizer harmonies drive many of his most successful tunes. All of these are wrapped in the warm, lo-fi glow of ’80s funk, new wave and post-punk styles — an amalgamation loosely known as “fresh beat.”
Singleton uses this fun and catchy sound that still allows for a large degree of complexity to draw the listener into a warm, ’80s embrace in his latest album.
The album is more rock-oriented than previous releases, even incorporating some elements of rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop from the ’50s and ’60s, and features backbeat rhythms with a stronger emphasis on the electric guitar although it never overshadows the other instruments.
Singleton’s unique singing is also heard more frequently along with other vocalists.
Likely the result of a mix of heavy production effects and intentionally poor-quality recording, all the sounds on the album have that lo-fi ’80s electronic quality to them from echoing, sometimes incomprehensible, lyrics,muffled drumming, fuzzy guitars and cosmic
synthesizer effects. It stands in stark yet infinitely amusing contrast to the sleek, over-produced pop music of today.
While these elements seem like they might be a turn-off to most listeners, James Pants is always danceable, and Singleton is known for some killer live performances.
James Pants can be placed loosely under the umbrella genre of electronica, but his use of live instruments stands out.
The new album began strongly with the energetic and driving “Beta,” a minimal tune with great drumming and a nice guitar solo.
The music branches out as the album progresses but always features a solid beat to move to. The most enjoyable tracks come near the end with the songs, “Alone” and “These Girls.”
“Alone” features some excellent guitar work and a beautifully intriguing saxophone part and “These Girls” is definitely the most rockin’ track on the album with some great synth effects.
All of the songs also have plenty of cheesy ’80s vocals that constantly entertain in a humorous light. For some nice, romantic ’80s introspection, check out “Screams of Passion” and “Kathleen.”
While the album isn’t as groundbreaking as past releases, it still stands solidly on its own with a unique sound that reminds us that the music of the ’80s wasn’t as bad as everybody assumes.
“James Pants” doesn’t come out until May 3, but Stones Throw has 7” vinyl singles for “Every Night I Dream” and “Clouds Over The Pacific” available on its website.
Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from “James Pants.”
Braden Smith/KSLC 90.3 FM
Braden Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.