The first five seconds of Black Lips alum Ian Saint Pé’s new solo venture, Fixed Focus, provide much of his aesthetic intention, and that is genuine-sounding music for a movie montage. The high-pitched Beach Boys wail, smooth organ and Ray Bans-toting frontman’s delivery on the opener, “Street Lights,” give off a welcoming lo-fi, beach vibe similar to that of Girls. This uniquely bright atmosphere also endears the track with a certain ’90s college rock sensibility. One might think that this is a safe route to take, but the carefully constructed song is maturely happy and surprisingly bold. There aren’t too many Elvis Costello, “Flagpole Sitta,” too-cool, everyman-sounding frontmen in rock right now, so Ian Saint Pé is more than welcome to remind us how comforting that this carefree approach can sound. In a world where “Buddy Holly” is being performed by Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard on Lip Sync Battle, all dressed up in the signature cardigan and geek glasses, one is reminded that this type of singing is approaching universal appeal.
Listen to “Honey Bunny” by Girls, “Kiss It Goodbye” by Saint Pé or “Veronica” by Elvis Costello for a reminder. In a chill, alt-dude Oreo, Saint Pé exists as the tasty, straightforward, textured, lo-fi cream filling to hold together two or more flowery sounding cookies that play around with other instruments and chords. Low-frills alternative songs are a respectable art form, especially against the onslaught of the Imagine Dragons of the world.
However, versatility isn’t this album’s strong suit. A simple, faded gold logo was a good choice to represent this LP, as, once the warm, golden choruses of songs like “Spun and Spurn” and “Saint Laurel” hit, one can’t help but want to jump in place and sing along at a Saint Pé concert — but, for now, maybe as the opening act for Elvis Costello.