Dave Lightfoot, from Wellington, New Zealand, has adopted the stage name 41 South and released his debut collection Are We There Yet? With this eight-song collection, he aims to remain true to himself, and write songs that he likes.
It’s an eclectic set. Four of the tracks are instrumentals with two of those serving as environmental sound lead-ins to the following cuts. The four vocal tracks are all over the map style-wise, bringing in elements from progressive, symphonic, new wave and pop rock, as well as hints of jazz.
These disparate influences are displayed on “Red Rocks,” the opening cut. The long (seven-plus-minute) track encompasses multiple segments, including synth-driven sections, some symphonic, tympani-driven passages and even a snare-driven march interlude. It’s an interesting listen--you never know what’s coming next but can also feel unexpected or even awkward. There are jump transitions between some sections, almost as if Lightfoot pasted separate eight-bar chunks together to make the track. Because of this, the piece feels like disparate sections and not a coherent whole.
On the other hand, “Night Creatures - Come On My Children (Let’s Dance)” will make everybody get up and move. It’s a keyboard-driven ‘80s new wave dance tune, like something Howard Jones might have done, if he’d been produced by the guys from Erasure. This is the most complete song of the bunch: there are great vocal stacks and bass grooves throughout, and the melody is strong. A highlight is the ending keyboard solo, which is on-point both in tone and in use of the pitch stick and portamento button. Steve Porcaro would be happy to have that credited to him.
The two stand-alone instrumentals are perfectly fine. “Who Left The Gate Open?” works through an interesting palette of keyboard patches. Lightfoot brings out his jazz roots on “Winter In Sapporo” with its brushed-snare drum patterns, electric-piano licks and bass solo.
The other two vocal tracks have their ups and downs. The mid-tempo “Slow Down - (Oh No!) We'd Better Take Cover” is undone by its lyrics, which unfortunately comes off as a bit preachy and self-help to me. There are some good vocal harmonies and a nice use of the classic talk box. “Tomorrow Is Another Day” has some strong pop moments, but the clunky lead guitar line is mixed way too high throughout the verse.
In all, Are We There Yet? Is a good starting point for 41 South. Lightfoot has an ear for many different styles, and this will serve him well as he amalgamates these influences into his own sound. The answer to the album title is no, we aren’t there yet, but we’re well on the way.
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