Album Review: BAIO – Man of the World

By on Wednesday, 28th June 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

BAIO Man of the World album coveI could be wrong, of course, but all signs point to Vampire Weekend being over. Ezra Koenig has a Beats 1 radio show. Rostam Batmanglij (now going by the mononym Rostam) has been busy with his own music and a notable collaboration with Hamilton Leithauser. Drummer Chris Tomson released his debut for his current solo project Dams of the West in February. And this Friday, bassist Chris Baio, now more known as electronic producer and DJ BAIO, will be releasing his second album. ‘Man of the World’ follows 2015’s ‘The Names’ and is reportedly reflective of Baio’s feeling of restlessness following his relocation to London and the political turmoil ensuing in his home and adoptive countries.

The LP was recorded post-Brexit in Brixton, pretty much as far as the New York-born Baio could get from the populous reach of his former band. Which, along with the tuxedo he enjoys sporting these days, are astute moves by my estimation. Early single ‘PHILOSOPHY!’, with its jaunty guitar and saxophone, oozes with uptown funk as he pokes holes in a relationship going sour. While the song is pretty wordy, it’s forgivable because BAIO is incredibly witty, even if lyrics like “it’s categorically imperative / that we work our troubles out” sound excessively highbrow. But don’t fret. This isn’t an LP you’ll need your nose in the air to enjoy. Baio’s electronic New Wave game is strong – the pastel pink of his promo photo and keyboards make sense now! – and anything these days that will get your toes tapping is welcome.

‘The Key is Under the Mat’ has a harpsichord-y synth effect throughout, which gives it a feel somewhere between fun children’s music and buttoned up Bach. Baio’s vocals are of engaging, Vampire Weekend-esque staccatoing style. ‘Out of Tune’ has a bouncy, ‘This is the Day’ vibe, albeit with mariachi horns. The sheer peppiness of the handclap and tambourine-happy ‘Sensitive Guy’ might just have more pep and is way less annoying than ‘Walking on Sunshine’. Its irrepressible beat is still thumping in my head, making it a clear album standout. ‘Be Mine’, which concludes ‘Man of the World’, evokes ABC’s Martin Fry and Baio’s hero David Bowie in vocal cadence and yelps. While he hasn’t reinvented the wheel, any comparisons are positive.

With a darker edge, the beat-heavy ‘DANGEROU ANAMAL’ [sic] reveals who in recent pop memory Chris Baio sounds the most like: a baritone ala Patrick Wolf in the ‘Wind in the Wires’ era. Once going there, it’s hard to forget this potential comparison in title track ‘Man of the World’, in which Baio’s strangely engaging lyrics about his fabulous jet-setting is paired with Latin-flavoured guitar and electronic drumbeats. “I’m always very gracious and I stay up with the news / I’m a man of the world / and I’m sure you love my views”, he preens. All jokes aside, he concludes he’s saving himself for this one person, and his partner must be a lucky person indeed.

An unexpectedly pleasant listen from start to end, Chris Baio has managed to write a fresh-sounding record despite its obvious debts to the ‘80s. Although he’s been quoted as saying ‘Man of the World’ is his “…attempt to document a certain sense of loss that felt both intensely personal and like part of a larger collective experience many were going through at once”, it’s hard to feel this when you get wrapped up in the electronic dance vibe of the record. No complaints here.

8/10

‘Man of the World’, the sophomore album from BAIO, is out this Friday, the 30th of June, on Glassnote Records. You can watch the amusing title track video for ‘The Names’ from last year through this link.

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