SOFT-FOCUS REFLECTIONS Dominic Lavoie has come up with a new twist on his familiar sound, presenting it so you feel like you're listening inside his head. In a good way.
He may not have planned it this way, but Dominic Lavoie is definitely striking while the Internet is hot. It's his "Be in Love" that was performed by all those Portland musicians who've been seen 20,000+ times on YouTube in that video for the Playing for Change event.
Haven't seen it? Search YouTube for "be in love Portland Maine" right now.
Originally released on 2008's Dominic and the Lucid record Season of the Sun, the song has become something of a cult classic among local musicians, who also joined to sing it in a big jam at the finish of the Phoenix's Portland Music Awards a couple years back.
If you like that tune, you'll like Lavoie's new solo release, ShaShaSha, a spacey, psychedelic collection of almost-pop tunes that work similar heart-felt territory. Created all by his lonesome, without longtime band companions like Chuck Gagne and Nate Cyr, it is full of Casio beats and keyboard sounds and doubled vocals and all the other sorts of trappings you might find on an album where a full commercial studio wasn't always at hand. It might remind you of the sounds coming off that first Milkman's Union record, or Evan Casas's work, or Jeff Beam's stuff.
Or maybe Beck's Solid Gold, but with bell-bottoms on.
That's "Clocks of Man" for you, with a head-bobbing drive forward supplied by digital boops and vocals that are mostly either falsetto or quietly breathed. Then a distorted harmonica enters and you're almost commanded to turn it up, get it louder, fill your ears with guitar riffs that fire in and the "ah-ah-ah-ah" backing vocals that are tracked in. By the time it finishes with big, crashing cymbals, somewhat muted, it's like you've just watched the construction of a large and intricate Tinker-Toy edifice, painstaking and fun at the same time.
It feels like a return to some of Lavoie's first turns on stage about a decade ago, when the Lucid were pegged as something of a jam band, with sounds swirling out into 10-minute excursions.
He retains, though, a late-career Beatles-derived pop influence, and you can hear it in everything from the way he pronounces "rivals" in "AAW" just like Paul McCartney in "Rocky Raccoon" to the sing-song, wide-eyed chorus of "Bookshelf," which rides on a galloping beat, like a lopsided ball rolling down the street. The "1, 2, 3, 4" chorus is really nicely spaced out here, so that each time it comes around it's a little bit of a surprise again, between the woodblocks and the incessant questioning: "don't you understand?"
Finally, he just goes ahead and covers the Beatles' "If I Needed Someone," keeping that rolling beat and doing the vocals in a bit of a monotone drone, like Spock as lead vocalist (there's a photo of Dom on the Facebook that may influence this association in my mind). He brings in a digital buzz, a honky tonk guitar, a rhythm that falls apart into static, and finally an alien abduction story that bleeds into the closing "Thrice," which provides a bookend along with the opening instrumental "Twin Brook Float."