By Chelsea Spear
Over the past few years, the ukulele has become to pop music what corn syrup is to soft drinks—a cloyingly sweet element used to thicken and over-sweeten a product of questionable quality. In comparison to his brodora-rocking peers, Dent May’s music is a glass of raw sugar-sweetened lemonade on a hot summer afternoon. His music shares a catchy, melodic quality, but his cracked baritone, lo-fi production values, and grounded lyrical perspective give his music a tart, refreshing quality.
May’s latest album, Do Things, finds the balladeer expanding his sonic palate. The focus on voice, uke, and song remain. In the wake of his grin-inducing solo debut The Good-Feeling Music of Dent May and his Magnificent Ukulele, however, May has started to work with faster tempos, dance beats, and arrangements that incorporate synths and drum machines.
Casio beats and fizzy squeals gild the album’s first few tracks. The straightforward production, combined with these new additions to May’s sound, suggests summertime roof parties and backyard jams. The multitracked vocals, shuffling tempos, and synth riffs bring to mind the giddy pop highs of ELO, and his staccato cadences and layered harmonies will appeal to fans of early Beach Boys.
Though the music has a sun-drenched, assured charm, the lyrics find May in a lovelorn state. One might see the album as a diary of the singer’s romances, starting with a wish for a girlfriend (the opening track, “Rent Money”) and ending with post-breakup melancholia and wanderlust (the title track and “Home Groan”). May’s lyrics aren’t great poetry, and no one will confuse him with Leonard Cohen, but he knows how to make a point and fade out with some “ba ba bas.”
On the whole, Do Things has an admirably slight quality to it. It’s a sweet, lovelorn album that doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. The album’s charms have an ephemeral quality, much like the season in which we presently find ourselves. Drink up May’s sweet brew.
6-15 Dallas, TX / The Bryan Street Tavern
6-16 Austin, TX / Red 7 $$
6-17 San Antonio, TX / Korova $$
6-18 Lubbock, TX / Prairie Fire Theater $$
6-20 Tucson, AZ / Solar Culture $$
6-21 Phoenix, AZ / The Crescent Ballroom $$
6-22 San Diego, CA / Casbah $$
6-23 Los Angeles, CA / The Smell $$
6-24 Long Beach, CA / Alex’s Bar $$
6-26 Isla Vista, CA / Biko Garage $$
6-27 San Jose, CA / Blank Club $$
6-28 Santa Cruz, CA / The Crepe Place $$
6-29 Oakland, CA / New Parish Music Hall $$
6-30 San Francisco, CA / Elbo Room $$!
7-2 Arcata, CA / The Jambalaya $$
7-3 Olympia, WA / The Northern $$
7-5 Vancouver, BC / Waldorf Hotel $$
7-6 Seattle, WA / Chop Suey $$
7-7 Portland, OR / East End Block Party $$
7-8 Missoula, MT / VFW Hall
7-10 Fargo, ND / Aquarium
7-12 Madison, WI / University of Wisconsin *
7-14 Cleveland, OH / Beachland Tavern
7-15 Grand Rapids, MI / The Pyramid Scheme
7-16 Toronto / Shop Under Parts and Labour
7-17 Montreal, QC / Casa Del Popolo
7-20 New York, NY / Mercury Lounge
7-21 Brooklyn, NY / Glasslands
7-22 Washington DC / DC9
7-23 Greensboro, NC / Blind Tiger
7-24 Atlanta, GA / The Earl
7-25 Hunstville, AL / Vertical House
$$ w/ Quintron and Miss Pussycat
$$! w/ Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Shannon and the Clams
* w/ Liturgy and Lotus Plaza