So, admittedly, I have not been the biggest cheerleader for the retro-pop revival that’s been sweeping through the indieverse over the past few years. At best, the glossy melange of synth-pop, R&B, and disco has struck me as being stylish but dull, and at worst exasperatingly derivative. Let’s all raise our glasses to Evan Voytas, then, for taking a belabored aesthetic and making it sound fresh again.
Having worked primarily as a session and touring musician for artists like Flying Lotus, Gonjasufi, and… uh… Teddy Geiger, Feel Me marks Voytas’ first solo excursion. The EP’s trappings are familiar, but Voytas imbues them with an urgency most of his contemporaries lack. The best tracks take a light-FM sound and push it to transcendent heights. The bouncy and flagrantly artificial rhythm section on “When We Could All Float Away” starts the EP off dangerously close to Steve Winwood territory, but Voytas continues to pile on layers of electronic effects that whinny and pulse in and out of sync with the spare, funky bass beat, until suddenly the song ERUPTS into a majestic chorus. In counterpoint to the buoyancy of the opening track stands the ponderous melancholy of “The Weightlessness.” Denser than its title implies, the song sounds like 1980s Michael Jackson played at half-speed and drowned in liquid synth. It has an almost physical texture, such that every pulse of kick drum sends ripples across the song’s surface like the aftermath of a stone tossed into a still pond.
None of the three remaining songs reach the same euphoric heights or bittersweet lows as the two brilliant opening numbers, but they still satisfy in a general way. “Can’t Let Anybody Know Who You Are” is probably the strongest, pitting a rope-skipping drum beat against a hushed, conspiratorial tone to create an enthralling sense of tension.
It’s Voytas’ production more than anything that gives this EP such a leg-up. The songs sound big and bright, but he knows when to let things get messy, and it’s during those choice moments — when the walls between instruments dissolve and the sounds bleed together — when Feel Me really starts to breathe. Whether Voytas will remain ahead of his retro-pop peers in the months and years to come remains to be seen, but for now, these five tracks do a pretty solid job of taking them all to school.