There seems to be a new genre of music that’s been gaining steam over the past several years. Artists everywhere are employing creative techniques to make music that blurs the line between live and programmed, between vintage and New Wave. Javelin is part of this movement, and their latest release, Hi Beams, hovers in unusually familiar airspace.
Javelin’s two pilots, Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford, jump between rhythms, samples and melodies quicker than rabbits in the grass. Combining a bright and spirited sound with futuristic effects and clean mixing, they come up with an album that’s tough to pinpoint. At times it feels like an homage to bygone generations. “Judgement Nite,” for example, is a track that sounds like it was pulled from a Rocky training montage. Other times, the album goes in different, more confusing directions.
Hi Beams focuses on a polished, light-hearted pop sound that has a lot in common with the of Montreals and Toro y Mois of the world. Instrumentation and sampling runs the gamut, heavily altered vocals lead the melodies around and rhythms rarely stay the same place for very long. It’s not something that’s never been done, but there may be something about this record that seems excessively eccentric, like a Sistine Chapel painted entirely in pastels. It’s strange and, in fact, it can be irksome at times.
Tracks like “Friending” approach the level of genuine annoyance. Rather than augmenting and accentuating the melodic sense of this song, the vocals attempt to become the melody. It almost seems like some absurdly overblown parody of auto-tuned vocals, but it doesn’t hit whatever mark it’s aiming for. On top of all this, it has an artificially produced sound that seems cheap and there are several other songs that evoke the same feeling. On the whole, Hi Beams just doesn’t quite pull it off.
Javelin is working on a style. It works really well at times. Hi Beams isn’t a bad record, but it gives the listener a lot to complain about. A few songs are honestly enjoyable, and some are even interesting. At other times, however, the album sounds like MTV has exploded and caved in on itself.