Darwin Deez is easy to overlook, because his overall aura screams “calculated hipness overdose.” His manorexic body and mustachioed-Hasidic look, with the curls wrapped in a string-thin hairband, manipulatively grab the eyes. His Michael Jackson-meets-St. Vincent-inspired guitar riffs and 808 beats are just so danceably ‘in’. In a couple unfortunate, “off-day” interviews, he sounded like a pseudo-intellectual fad-hopper, forgetting what he learned in his numerous “influential” philosophy classes, and tailoring his albums to whether this or that scene is “over.” None of this is too appealing.
Of course all that really matters is the music, and Songs for Imaginative People redeems Deez of these possible hipster-stereotype transgressions. Songs… draws on Darwin’s real-life experiences in waiting tables, his “lush crush,” and the realities of long-term relationships – all spun with ultra-clever metaphors.
Take standout ballad “Redshift” – Deez bemoans a breakup through a series of space-related puns. While “Moonlit” features the zinger “I would rather hang with your blouses than your friends,” right after he calls suburban cohabitation “75 to life.” And then there’s this little gem “Good to Lose,” that puts some brainpower behind Beck’s famous “Loser” mentality:
Because I’m free to be asleep until three
And let my laundry just pile up on me
With a career track to the fridge and back
I can slide my feet on a dryer sheet
And I’m a cog in it, but it’s a good machine
And it keeps me clean, and I always mean
To rewind you back to the beginning
Stop you flapping and spinning
Remind you losing is winning
It’s good to lose
The music of Songs… makes an effort to stand out, which admirably keeps interest. Deez reverses the traditional soft-loud relationship between verse and chorus on “Chelsea’s Hotel,” and experiments with unique rhythms (“You Can’t Be My Girl”, “Good to Lose”) and chords (whole album).
It’s a promising step forward for Deez from his self-titled, which gave the aforementioned “style over substance” impression a bit firmer. Due to its approach, Songs… sometimes seems aimless or cluttered. But it all grows on you – an honest snapshot of his transition from food service day-job to full-time musician, as funneled via “All in the Wrist:”
Wipe the knife and slice through another new head of iceberg
I serve more hors d’oeurves to the trashcan than to any man where I work
Waste in this place is a terrible thing to mind, likewise time
And I’m sure stacking glasses in the back is a total waste of mine
But is it all just as small as it seems to be?
It’s obscene what the scenery costs when the dreams are free
What’s more, Darwin writes a mean bridge and outro, saving any potential weaknesses. The lead single’s minimum-wage-Groundhog Day video is proof of both that and his subtle individuality, despite outward appearances: