Discovery LP

[XL; 2009]

Styles: electro-pop, indie R&B
Others: Postal Service, Hot Chip

Technicolor Rainbow Supernova: they have held microphones towards it. Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot took a summer sabbatical in the cosmos and have returned with the synth and stardust-sprinkled LP, under the handle Discovery. Tales of pleading love and the trains departing Neo Tokyo are cast in a mesh of Nintendo bleeps and Auto-Tune that remains remarkably warm and emotional. The first three songs of LP -- giddy, swirling tufts of digital cotton candy -- foreshadow a more immediate, palatable wave of independent music on the horizon. And while the happiness they’ve synthesized isn’t entirely sustainable, any lack of depth is made up for in cheerful buoyancy.

Discovery began as a lofty dream. “What could be done with just handclaps and synthesizers?” Wes and Rostam wondered. Recruiting fellow Vampire Ezra Koenig and Dirty Projectors' Angel Deradoorian as research assistants, the duo hunkered down to divine a method from their gladness.

Album opener “Orange Shirt” begins with spotlights beaming. Discovery struts down the thoroughfare with a spring usually reserved for hard-bodied R&B stars, epic handclaps applauding all the while. Micro-processed pipe organs stutter out a head nod-inducing syncopation, as Rostam serenades, “Can I sleep inside?/ I know you’re nervous though/ So I promise to leave before your mother wakes up in the morning.” “Osaka Loop Line” sounds like opening the door of the lunar lander, the sparkle almost too magnificent to transmit back to Houston. Thudding, chromatic keyboards anchor the track’s flood of oscillating twinkles and both vocoded and recoded vocals.

When the Discovery equation is applied to Ra Ra Riot’s orchestral garage rocker “Can You Tell,” the resulting “Can You Discover?” drips with android passion. The re-imagined cover is lush with slurred Auto-Tune, sultry melodies, and lazer-ska upswing. Angel’s glissando vocals fluctuate erratically, trembling from note to note across the gender-bending title of “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” “So Insane” propels to sharp hi-hats before a graceful downshift into the breathtaking embrace of low-frequency fuzz, as Wes declares, “I try to get off my knees/ And try to fight-f-f-fight this feeling/ But I can’t.”

The Jackson 5 masterpiece “I Want You Back” receives a timely tribute, filled with wispy computer-assisted vocals and a steam-machine groove. Although it could never match MJ’s puppy love tenor or Wilton Felder's ecstatic bass line, this 23rd-century update reminds us that sweetness can be timeless. Invoking Hot Chip on “It’s Not My Fault (It’s My Fault),” Discovery build repetitive, atonal components to critical mass, even mirroring Alexis Taylor’s lyrical subjects. But Wes and Rostam are emotional guys, so it's a bit sterile to conceal their hearts in layering and duplication. Meanwhile, closing track “Slang Tang” is too messy, distant, and plodding to stand with the rest of the album’s crisp urgency, but it at least softens the shock when LP’s scant 30 minutes conclude.

Discovery brandish their bright and shiny style proudly. Unique and easily-liked, their debut borrows tricks from the pop charts to make songs with both hook and soul. Although bordering on bubblegum, LP is sunny enough for January, as well as July.

1. Orange Shirt
2. Osaka Loop Line
3. Can You Discover?
4. I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (ft. Angel Deradoorian)
5. So Insane
6. Swing Tree
7. Carby (Ft. Ezra Koenig)
8. I Want You Back
9. It’s Not My Fault (It’s My Fault)
10. Slang Tang

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