First for music news
This Week's Issue
You’re logged in

Album Review: Memory Tapes - 'Player Piano'

New Jersey chillwaver needs to can the cleverness and let his pop soul slip the chains of esoterica

Album Review: Memory Tapes - 'Player Piano'

Minimalism. The most understated and intricate of the musical arts? Or something people do because they’re too poor or lazy to record it properly? An eternal argument, but you could never accuse Memory Tapes – aka chillwave pioneer and the feyest singer in all Noo Joysey, Dayve ‘Unnecessary Y’ Hawke – of laziness. If this collection of no-fi synth hooks and curios achieves anything it’s an exuberance befitting mainstream pop, in direct contrast to the reedy sound of the thing.

The homemade aesthetic of ‘Player Piano’, you assume, was born of frugal necessity, but Hawke uses this as an excuse to commit the usual minimalist crime of padding out his second album with experimental crankiness. So the record is bookended by two chopstick chimes called ‘Musicbox(in)’ and ‘Musicbox(out)’, ‘Humming’ is two and a half minutes of Shaolin nuns hitting bags of drugged bees, while the sprawling ‘Worries’ buries its melodic pleasures beneath Casio voodoo bongos and ‘haunted’ (ie, a bit crap-sounding) organ. And ‘Fell Thru Ice II’ is a luminous synth-gaze pop wonder.

The result is a record that sounds like it really wants to be a cracking pop album but can’t bring itself to shake off the chunky sweater of esoteric credibility. Which is a shame because elsewhere, Memory Tapes oozes the crossover charm of Broken Bells or The Postal Service. The infectious ‘Sunhits’ revisits the New Order beats of 2009 debut album ‘Seek Magic’, and ‘Player Piano’ finally opens both barrels on ‘Trance Sisters’, a Technicolor afrobeat banger with a finale that’s as frantic as Joss Stone in a sack. There’s greatness here, but too often shadowed by obliqueness. Admit it, Dave, you want to be the Scissor Sisters. There, feels better, right?

Mark Beaumont

Order a copy of Memory Tapes - 'Player Piano' from Amazon

To rate this track, log in to NME.COM

To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday

Comments

Please login to add your comment.

More Videos
More Memory Tapes
Latest Tickets - Booking Now
 
Know Your NME
 

 
NME Store & Framed Prints
Most Read Reviews
Popular This Week
Inside NME.COM
On NME.COM Today