How does this Julia Holter collaborator sound on his first full-length on a big label imprint?Weird World, 2015
5.3 / 10
Remember last year when T-Pain performed a stripped down set on NPR? I’m guessing the 7,000,000 who streamed the video on YouTube were, like me, pretty surprised by just how good of a singer he was sans Auto-Tune, that now ubiquitous audio processor which corrects pitch and allows Ke$ha to earn a living. In a coinciding interview, T-Pain explained “People felt like I was using it [Auto-Tune] to sound good… But I was just using it to sound different”. There’s a critical distinction there: while one could easily make a case pitched corrected vocals have turned many a sub-par singer into a star, many artists who have drawn critics’ praise (check Justin Vernon) have used the studio plug-in as means for experimentation, or, as revealed above, just because it sounds cool. What can be learned from this? Very little, because Kanye West—a self proclaimed poor singer—uses it all the time and people still eat that shit up.
Anyway, the reason I typed roughly 160 words which make me sound like a Neil Young-ian Luddite is that Jib Kidder’s Teaspoon to the Ocean is dripping with the type of vocal processing that immediately reminds me why I don’t like treated vocals in the first place. The Atlanta-born artist—whose real name is Sean Schuster-Craig—has already released plenty of music on Bandcamp, and has previously collaborated with the fantastic Julia Holter. His Weird World debut sees the talented musician creating unsteady pop songs which borrow from such disparate elements as country-influenced slide guitar to the kind of left-field pop aesthetic choices we once heard from Animal Collective (don’t tell me that bit in “The Waves” didn’t remind you of “Bees”).
Judging from the mostly self-referential credits, it’s obvious he’s extremely talented. The problem is these finely built songs just don’t have much staying power; I can’t remember one melody after listening for a week, and that’s saying something because I’ve been humming that new Rihanna-Kanye-McCartney song in the shower lately. And those vocals? Song after song of quivering effects left me feeling nauseated and frustrated, because I know it’s unfair to criticize someone for trying to do something interesting. And really, if he was using it as a crutch, would it be such a problem given he’s playing pretty much everything else on the album? Maybe. You decide.
Oh! Doesn’t the album’s artwork remind you of Another Green World?