DeLong debut album ‘Just Movement’ catchy, unoriginal
Borrowed beats bring down DeLong’s opening album
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 03:02
With colossal names such as MTV and Billboard pegging up−and−coming musician Robert DeLong as an “artist to watch,” his debut album “Just Movement” had high expectations to live up to. The album, released on Jan. 22, brings together 12 beat−heavy tracks including his earlier released single “Global Concepts,” which has been playing on radio stations around the country since last summer. While the songs themselves are catchy and stimulating, the hype around him was definitely misplaced.
DeLong advertises himself as a one−man band who runs around a drum set, computers, a keyboard, joysticks and other electronics while singing and setting vocals to track loops. While the visuals of DeLong performing his tracks live are fairly impressive, the listener isn’t able to get the sense that DeLong is taking on all the responsibilities of his songs in a do−it−yourself way.
Upon an initial listen, there is no doubt that DeLong’s beats are catchy. They draw from various musical genres including dubstep, basement rock and even Afro−Caribbean drumming styles. Although there are clearly multiple layers infused within each track, the sound comes across as simple. “Global Concepts” demonstrates a dual presentation of a drawn−out electronic club beat along with this Afro−inspired drumming. Shakers, just one of the many percussion sounds DeLong involves in his tracks, can also be heard on his popular single.
Various critics have suggested that the tracks on “Just Movement” are danceable or club−ready songs. However, too often there are lengthy segments in the tracks that don’t provide a heavy dance beat. Additionally, DeLong’s vocals don’t fall in line with typical house music, despite his repetition of memorable phrases like “did I make you f−−kin’ dance?” or “be not afraid, it’s just a game.” This isn’t to say that you couldn’t break it down to DeLong’s tunes if you wanted to, but even the most club−ready tracks on this album may need to be remixed before being added to a DJ’s set list. This lack of obvious club sound unfortunately places “Just Movement” awkwardly between house music and pop rock.
In addition to the uncomfortable in−between−ness of DeLong’s sound, many of the tracks on “Just Movement” are strongly reminiscent of other artists in the electronic pop/rock genre. It appears that the critics claiming the originality of DeLong’s debut have never heard of Hot Chip, Passion Pit or Vampire Weekend. The baritone notes layered underneath DeLong’s higher vocals strongly parallel Hot Chip’s “And I Was A Boy From School,” and “Few Years Make” could easily be mistaken for a Vampire Weekend tune. “Just Movement” is therefore disqualified from winning any points for musical freshness.
Nevertheless, DeLong should receive credit for consistently presenting thought−provoking topics in his lyrics. Each song appears as a confessional by DeLong concerning some inner thought that has been yearning to get out. “Complex By Degree” pays tribute to the originality of the human race, but when surrounded by an upbeat electronic sound, the lyrics don’t translate. DeLong’s most engaging creation lies in the final two tracks, “Survival of the Fittest” and “Basically, I.” The grinding, dismal lyrics in “Survival of the Fittest” protest against the current state of the world, but somehow DeLong succeeds in seamlessly flowing into the final track, which, fortunately, cheerfully questions where the world might be headed in the future. “Basically, I” also brings back in the namesake phrase from an earlier track, “Change (How You Feel),” and smartly wraps up the album’s overarching theme.
“Just Movement” is surely worth a listen−through, as DeLong has produced an entertaining album with inspiring lyrics. If you’re looking for innovation in the electronic−based genre, though, you won’t find it with DeLong. Instead, this lack of musical originality just makes you forget his name altogether.