The Champion (aka Devonté Hynes) has followed up his impressive 2008 debut, Falling off the Lavender Bridge, with a sophomore album of fifteen deliciously honest and instrumentally layered tunes that trace an epic journey through the inner psyche of a man whose life is laid out like a patchwork quilt; exploring highs, lows, joy, agony, heartache and plain old pleasantry.
You might be familiar with the first single off the album, ‘Marlene’, which has been on rotation at Triple J for the last few months. Probably the most danceable of the album, it features quite the literal turn of phrase, ‘everybody knows you want a baby, and god knows everybody wants one too’, a hook that’s straight up, frank and pretty darn catchy.
Yes, I’m a sucker for killer lyrics, but not normally those of the extreme literal sense. Thankfully Hynes has a way of telling quite a factual story through his songs that’s not at all wanky. Conversely, its quaintness gives the listener a feeling of safety and familiarity. You can learn so much about an artist you don’t even know just by listening to their lyrics, something that gives folk music a certain edge over other common genres. Try and apply the same philosophy to popular outfits like Empire of the Sun, Art vs Science, or even Lady Gaga, whose songs revolve around intricate electronic beds and a repetitive hook… yeah it’s fun, but you don’t really learn much. Lightspeed Champion bares his soul on this record and even whilst he’s crooning ‘Kill me baby won’t you kill me, I hate my world’, we’re still tapping along and smiling… oh Dev, you make life seem so, well, yeah… ‘sweet’.
Each track on Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You boasts a wealth of tight knit and imaginative musicianship. Indie-pop ditties, contemplative folksongs and heartfelt ballads are broken up nicely with climactic chorus lines, left of centre melodies and Chopin-worthy classical piano intermissions (i.e the mighty ‘Etude Op 3, The Big Guns of Highsmith’). Add to this mix a bunch of stellar strings, woodwind, xylophones, and some ukuleles, kick in some fat bass drums, foot stomps, perhaps a choir or two and some synths and we’ve got ourselves a fine piece of deep and soulfully rocking chamber pop.
Dev Hynes, the Texan-born, English-raised New Yorker, has a skill of writing upbeat and world class tunes with genuine heart and a quirky, unique edge, not unlike Bright Eyes… but perhaps on antidepressants. Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You has all the makings of a fine folk-pop record with such sincerity that leaves us pleasantly satisfied but still wanting more.