By Jemiah Jefferson
Riffing on the name of the famous 19th Century painter, this intriguing solo project by Apples in stereo alum John Dufilho is a delightfully mixed bag of influences and styles, with each song featuring a singer other than himself. Most of the other instruments are performed by him, though, and as befitting his Elephant 6 associations, he’s good-to-excellent at all of them.
Working through a massive backlog of songs he’s written over the years, Dufilho hasn’t given all of them to his other groups, including The Apples in stereo, Death Ray Davies, and I Love Math, deciding to record and work on them by himself. He’s a one-man powerhouse of great pop hooks and dreamy psych landscapes, and the choice to have a variety of vocalists from sources as diverse as Death Cab for Cutie and Kool & the Gang was an inspired choice.
Every song on this album is enjoyable, and despite ranging from the reverb-heavy psych of “Birdy Num Num” and the Ben Kweller vocals on “Mountains, Oceans, Elephants,” to album standout “Dizzy Joy,” a joyful funk party song featuring Sir Earl Toon, the songs have an admirable cohesion and singularity of tone and purpose. Dufilho shows his mastery of plenty of styles, but it’s all his vision. The result is an extremely enjoyable album that rewards repeated listening, but that gives immediate pleasure.
If there’s an indie-pop answer to pop supergroups Gnarls Barkley and Gorillaz, this could be it. Grab one for your summer backyard parties; it’s as cool and low-pressure as a fizzy punch shared with brilliant pals.
John Singer Sergeant was released by Kirtland Records on April 10 and is available to order from their website. You can listen to the track “Big Distortion” here. Be sure to check out John Singer Sergeant on Facebook.