LA-based musical magician AM has teamed with London based move ‘n’ groove aficionado Shawn Lee to bring you the aptly titled new album, Celestial Electric. Bringing some indie pop style and everything but the kitchen sink, the two offer a colorful kaleidoscope of retro-fueled jams. Available for your listening pleasure as of September 6, 2011 on ESL Music.
“City Boy” kicks off the album with knee deep percussive layers, pleasantly intoxicating falsetto vocals and a super funky guitar solo that brings the first track out on a high note. As I listen I find myself thinking, “How can this possibly get any funkier?” then, what’s that I hear? Could it be? A flippin’ glockenspiel. By golly, it is! Just when I thought Beirut was on top of their game for busting out the ukulele and euphoniums or Gardens and Villa was bringing sexy back by playing flute, here comes AM & Shawn Lee with the sweet tinkerings of glockenspiel.
The album continues to impress with “Lonely Life” which sports distinctive galloping snare hits and groovy bass to match. The shattering synths and handclaps are pure fun in a serious song. The highlight of this track, however, is definitely the simple yet truthful lyrics: “Tell me stories, tell me lies, you don’t know me, I don’t mind, in the bedroom, feel alive…cuz we’re living a lonely life.”
Other highlights of the album include the ghostly meld of serious synth layers (four synths were used in the making), slippery hi-hats, chunky percussion and hand claps of “Dark Into Light.” The reassuring lyrics are fitting, too: “Turn the wrong into right, turn the dark into light, and we’ll be alright.” Track six, “Jackie Blue,” is a sharp-witted and wildly new take on the 1970’s classic hit by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. In my opinion, it’s even catchier than the original, proving to me that AM & Shawn Lee have an undeniable penchant for retro pop. “Somebody Like You” is sweet electrified guitar glory that will leave you snapping along, long after the album is over.
This is a colorful and thoughtful album which, for convenience’s sake, I’d sum up as perfected electro soul pop. However, it does truly employ a vast array of stylistic influences from all around the musical globe and from multiple eras, notably 60s-80s. The sounds range from funk, jazz and psychedelic to Latin. For me, it suits a very specific mood and purpose (I can truthfully only take so much falsetto vox in a sitting). It’s the laid-back soundtrack to my former 70s movie star life (mustaches included). For you, it may be something different altogether. Regardless, I think it’s worth listening to. So, I suggest you put on your headphones and take your own AM & Shawn Lee sponsored adventure.
They pull off their live show with four band members and, while their gig opening for Thievery Corporation in L.A. has come and gone, be sure to catch their CD release show on Sept. 28, 2011 at the Troubador along with Adrian Younge Presents: Venice Dawn.
Album Review by Emily Saex
- To listen to “Dark Into Light”, “Lonely Life” and “Somebody Like You” click here.