It seems like 2013 is some kind of year for earnest electronic balladry, if the reunion of The Postal Service is any indicator of The Way We Are Now. But if you’re still not convinced that good music can be made with the help of studio trickery and fine-tuned sequencing, you might want to give a listen to Campaign Capsized, the latest offering from New Jersey-based electronic outfit Declan’s Well.
Released last month after a lengthy Kickstarter campaign, Campaign Capsized – the latest in a string of full-lengths and EPs that stretch back to 2005 – might seem familiar to anyone who’s gritted their teeth through an Owl City single on the radio. Both bands are essentially one singer/songwriter/mastermind at the helm; in the case of Declan’s Well, it’s Keenan Gaynor of suburban South Plainfield, NJ. And while Capsized has its share of urgent beats and bubbly synths, you’re never going to mistake Gaynor for the “Fireflies” guy.
Declan’s Well is less interested in happy platitudes; some of the lyrics on Campaign Capsized suggest romantic trauma, with Gaynor licking his wounds and coming away with hard lessons about love. “I don’t give a shit what you’re doing / and I don’t give a shit where you’re moving on,” he snarls on “Life Preserver.” Elsewhere, tracks like “Expired” and “Two Thousand and Five” come heavy, holding the kind of tired introspection and battle against early-onset malaise with which many fellow twentysomethings likely struggle.
What makes the record far more than quirky sad electro-pop, though, is Gaynor’s way with simple, catchy melodies, often amplified by dreamy, wordless vocal hooks (performed by both Gaynor and vocalist Kazuki Daimo) that reach for the rafters in a way that most electronic acts would not. Opening track “Overexposure,” in particular, digs under the skin in its two minutes on the record, while “Faith” is augmented by a Timbaland-ish set of stuttering chords and cello loops. There’s nothing timid here, and we’re better off for it.
If all that Postal Service nostalgia’s left you cold, Campaign Capsized is a record well worth your time. Whatever sinking ship Declan’s Well escaped from outside of the studio, there’s little doubt Gaynor will keep his head above water.
Declan’s Well will play The Crossroads, 78 North Avenue, Garwood, NJ April 17 at 7 p.m.