Mack Gilcrest (piano/vocals), Kurt Skrivseth (bass/guitar) and Brian Tremper (drums) are the three members of the band Pale People. The trio recently released their debut album entitled Bright Ideas.
The twelve songs on Bright Ideas are diverse ranging from funky free jazz style songs to stripped back piano ballads. I was impressed by the technical ability of the band and with repeated listens some of the more aesthetically creative parts of their music starts to emerge.
I think the most polarizing aspect of these songs comes down to vocal performances. Suffice it to say I think most people will have an ambivalent relationship with the way Gilcrest decides to sing. He sings as if he is in a play. Gilcrest is hyperbolic, dynamic and constantly changes his inflection almost as if he is playing different characters. It usually comes off as frivolous rather than highfalutin. Either way I got the impression that Gilcrest was a theater kid who decided to pick up an instrument. In some ways the theatrical vibe reminded me of The Decemberists. Although I would say that Gilcrest’s vocals are more thematic than Colin Meloy's ever were.
I thought the strongest songs were the ones where that was at least one hook present. Take for instance a highlight entitled “Auf Wiedersehen.” This is certainly one of Gilcrest’s best vocal performances and I thought the chorus was mighty catchy. The impressive bass lines and steady drums also elevated the song.
One of the most hyperbolic vocal performances is on the opener “Mona Lisa.” Gilcrest goes from singing in a whispered hush to then sounding like the villain in a play. If nothing else you have to say he is enthusiastic and doesn’t hold back. Whether or not it is your cup of tea is up to you.
On the next song “NSA Tango” the band has a lounge-y jazz vibe and for some reason I kept thinking it makes for music you might hear at one of the mystery-murder dinner things. The song starts off really strong but you could make the argument Gilcrest gets a little too into the theatrics of his own singing at times.
As the album progresses there were certainly some songs that seemed to stick out right away. The fast paced “Psalm” was energetic and fun while “Still Life With Nude” is like a stream of conscious thought about pornography.
I think Pale People still have some work ahead of them but their debut does do a couple tof hings that show a lot of potential. The fact that they were able to develop an original sound and form a foundation on this debut is a very good start. I’d say if they create more hooks and memorable chorus along with the more theatrical stuff they should be in a very good place.
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