Personal Computer is excellent. Kody Nielson, previously of The Mint Chicks and Opossum, has built an intelligent machine that is sophisticated and highly targeted in its reflection, mockery, acceptance and integration of the information age with our own humanity. Nielson paints a world that we’ve all existed in as we crane our necks over our phones or Google one last fact before bed, using technological imagery (‘The God Emoji,” “Cellphone”) as a marker for an artificial transcendence of loneliness that only leads us further from ourselves. The value in Silicon’s commentary is its singularity. It’s an enjoyable listen even amidst the concept.
“Personal Computer” is catchy and defines the sound we expect for the rest of the album. Silicon feels like Broadcast met Silver Apples, and they hooked up with fusion-era Flora Purim and a perfectly tight funk rhythm section. Nielson has an excellent feel for melody and the song structures are patient without feeling empty. The drums are excellently dry, and the analog Roland brings a palpability that separates it from the rest of the soft-synth productions of today. “Cellphone” has Nielson sounding like a humanized robot, expanding its communicative theme with dial tone samples. “Submarine” has excellent harmonic motion that is equally intriguing and accessible. “God Emoji” shows a seasoned use of space, with Nielson chanting “I don’t want to go out on a Saturday night.” “Burning Sugar” sticks in your head and makes you need to move at the chorus, with modern narcissism front and center as we hear ‘I take everything for granted / but that’s none of my concern.’
“Little Dancing Baby” is incredibly fun at about 70 seconds long. One of the clever choices Nielson made was to keep this album short, coming in at under 30 minutes. What could be more appropriate for the internet age? “I Can See Paradise” is mechanical and succeeds at making your hips swing. “Blow” sums up the sense of having a grounded modern psychedelia in the making. The melody is yearning and relieving, with a shadow of Pink Floyd, and it becomes remarkable that such a technical and stiff album has seamlessly transitioned into such an emotive moment.
The biggest victory here is that Nielson is able to meld the sense of whitewashed isolation with refined fun. The whole package is so well branded and cohesive between the artist name, the album concept, and the sound that it must have been dreamt up by a man with a precise, unique vision. Kody Nielson accomplished all this while crafting a sound that seems more current than anything else out right now. In other words, it’s a pioneer sound that may see itself copied down the road. Personal Computer may be overlooked because it feels so smart and tight as to be inhuman. It may be alienating because of its critical reflection. Nevertheless, Silicon is a nonpareil in a new, unnamed genre that appears to be the near future.