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James Pants

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Album Review

James Pants’ third album is appropriately self-titled, as it is the first album that sees him avoiding gimmicks and coming into his own as an original entity. Released in 2008, Welcome found the Spokane local appropriating electro-funk, and 2009's Seven Seals was a spooky, psychedelic concept album about forming a cult. James Pants is a personal record, but it’s still out there. Like most Stones Throw artists, Pants is never content unless he’s pushing boundaries and evolving. Here, to use his own words, he’s influenced by Twin Peaks and ‘50s diner songs. He uses crazy amounts of slapback echo and a wall of ‘90s synths to get this sort of ominous, retro-cool sound. Meanwhile, he adds the usual cosmic sounds from his bag of tricks, along with some live-sounding organic instrumentation as heard on Seven Seals (noisy guitars, thick basslines, live drums, and a murky falsetto). The main change seems to be an emphasis on tighter song structures rather than using straight-driving riffs or beats, and the songs sound a little more poppy — that is, if the radio transmissions were coming from Mars. “Kathleen” is a spacy computer-love ballad, and Lucrecia Dalt's sweet, airy vocals on "Clouds Over the Pacific" give the dub-inflected ambience a solid sense of order. Elements of chillwave and darkwave are inherent, and the presence of Joe Meek, Bruce Haack, and Alan Vega are felt, but like listening to Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti or Ween, a James Pants album is an immersive experience, where you fall into his unique musical world. Once there, everything is filtered through his wild sonic manipulation to make it sound like his skewed take on pop, and his alone. Weird as it is, this is his most exciting work yet.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Stones Throw Records-affiliated James Pants is a one-man band whose humorous dance-funk music style is informed by early-'80s R&B/soul and old-school hip-hop as well as whatever thrift-store gear he comes across in his sleepy hometown of Spokane, Washington. Born James Singleton, he's a multi-instrumentalist (drums, keyboards, guitar, etc.), a skilled beatmaker, and a capable soul singer, and isn't afraid to infuse his music with a self-deprecating sense of humor. He became acquainted with Stones...
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