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Album Review

In 2011, Canadian songcrafter Sean Nicholas Savage released not one but three separate albums with Montreal label Arbutus Records. All three proffered different windows into the prolific singer's weird little world, one of smooth R&B-informed crooning filtered through art school conceptualization and production rooted in the dancier side of the indie sphere. With Other Life, Savage crystallizes the sonic persona he's been cultivating with a few incredible slices of dark dance pop and a fractured take on quiet storm-style late-night soul jams. The first half of Other Life is where Savage spends all his best melodies, from the slinky faux-R&B harmonies and cool jazz sax solo on album opener "She Looks Like You" to the upbeat synth pop anthem that is the opening track, along with other soulful gems "Lonely Woman" and "More Than I Love Myself." With a fairly straightforward homage to '80s tones in the vein of Sade, Blue Nile, Art of Noise, or even early Whitney Houston, Savage seems genuinely enraptured with the sound, and his lyrics seem more personal than ironically constructed. Still, it's hard not to be skeptical of something so close to a style whose time in vogue has come and gone several times over. More than a question of authenticity, however, is the question of Other Life's longevity. While the first four or so songs are engaging and hooky, the fuse burns out pretty quickly, leaving about half of the album sounding like watered-down versions of the tracks that precede it. While tracks like the romantic and breezy "Bygone Summer" or the odd cabaret-ish "It's Real" make some waves, the album fades into a mostly compressed, if pleasant sort of sameness. Part of the Montreal scene that gave birth to Grimes, Doldrums, Mac DeMarco, and Majical Cloudz, Savage is a valuable and relevant contributor with a remarkably unique perspective, but Other Life, while being a solid album, falls short of being any type of definitive statement about his place in the landscape of his scene or the world at large.

Other Life, Sean Nicholas Savage
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