As the driving force behind two of the better projects to ever release music in Portland — Cosades and Grand Hotel (and Glory Trap was pretty fun) — when Kyle Gervais says he has a solo project in the works, people pay attention. A musician's musician, with a deep knowledge of and love for a wide spectrum of work, Gervais has a way of pushing boundaries and challenging the listener with songs that are familiar at their core.
On this first KGFREEZE album, Sociopath, you can almost be lulled into thinking he's making pop songs. The opening and title track is way more playful than anything Gervais has done recently, with a bouncy and melodic bass line and colorful keyboards. But what's he been up to?
"I spent the last year drinking every night and lying to myself/And everybody else."
There you have it. Playing everything on the album but the drums (he brought in Derek Gierhan for that), Gervais has created songs that play out like he's lying on the couch and you're the psychologist. Or his girlfriend. "I never feel comfortable around anyone I don't really know," he confides in the '80s-fueled "Razzle Dazzle," "she liked the way I was when it was just the two of us." Like many of the songs here, instead of stark contrasts between verses and choruses we get a simmering that threatens to boil, but never quite gets to that point, as the heat is toggled up and down almost schizophrenically.
"Why you only call me when you wanna hook up," he eventually accuses. "I'm getting tired, baby, of calling your bluff."
Often, as in "Dancing" or "Come Around," a repeating bass line is presented as a foundation on which he builds chiming keyboard chords or spare electric guitar leads. His vocals can sound desperate, pleading, but then switch quickly to haughtiness.
"Close Encounters" is positively brooding, with narcotized vocals in the open encouraging, "you should get a little high with me/He'll still be there when you get back home," before he apes Sunset Hearts and settles into a strutting bounce: "I'm sorry I screamed/But you know I still love you."
"In too Deep" is full of twinkling keyboards, like seeing stars; "I Want You" is like an early Michael Jackson song from an alternative universe. "Come Around" finishes with this quickly delivered "really wanna give you my love" that sounds like it could have come off the new Timberlake album.
Sociopath is the kind of record I can't quite come to grips with in the span of a mere 10 days of listening or so. Sometimes all I can hear is the chiming chords that infuse "Can't Get My Mind Off of You" like a clock striking 100 o'clock. At one point in "Closer" I thought Gervais was going to enter with a rap verse like early Run-DMC. And yet most of these songs are pretty damn accessible. ^
SOCIOPATH | Released by KGFREEZE | with Eagle Chief + Kristina Kentigian | at Asylum, in Portland | April 5 | facebook.com/kgfreezemusic