August 10, 2013

Review - "Mighty Social Lion" (J. Arthur Keenes)

As the one-man J. Arthur Keenes Band, Dan McLay has been a consistently unique voice in the chip music scene for a pretty good while now. He has a knack for writing extremely polished and thoughtful bedroom-pop, and the production quality is up there with the best. With ten tracks, "Mighty Social Lion" could be called his first proper LP, and it's certainly his longest release to date. Loyal fans shouldn't hold their breath either--his latest album is another solid effort.

All tongue-in-cheek Bieber comparisons aside, the swoon-worthy McLay is a master of multi-instrument GameBoy pop. Electric guitar and real drums are worked nicely into the mix. Pretty much any of these songs could fit comfortably on the soundtrack of an indie film. Opener "Plea Bargain" does come across as a bit of a shaky start with its glitched-out, hard-to-decipher vocal gimmick, but the music itself isn't bad. One of my biggest gripes with this record is the mixing on certain songs, which occasionally heads for overkill. Dan really likes to fill out both speakers, but sometimes there's just way too much busy panning going on. The first two tracks are especially full.

Regardless, the soaring melodic perfection of "Congratulations" still comes through very well. Dan puts his vocal talent to good use, even if he doesn't quite reach the sweet pacing and songwriting of his last two releases. Quirky, vague lyrics also make a welcome return. The calm "Worth Keeping" has nicely melodic guitar work, while "Under Construction" is a fun tune that even throws in some ooh-and-aah backup for good measure.

Six-minute closer "The Doors" wraps things up without being excessive, as Dan sings, "If I waste my life, can I have yours? / I'll sweep the deck and mend the sores / When the lights go out, I'll lock the doors on my own". Keenes may be a one-man band, but his quirky brand of alt-pop is definitely worth checking out.

SCORE: 7.6 out of 10 - "Good"