And on the 203rd day… the first album on this year’s list: Active Child’s You Are All I See.
The solo project is the active brain child of Pat Grossi (it’s a pun, don’t worry about it), a multi-instrumentalist whose main weapon of choice on stage for live shows is the harp. Grossi’s twist is to infuse R&B and synth-driven beats beneath the angelic soundscape.
And since this is his only full-length release, and thus the one opportunity I have to write about his music this year, I also want to point you in the direction of the Curtis Lane EP.
That release contains my favorite Active Child song, “When Your Love is Safe,” heard here:
After that EP’s release in 2010 came this full-length in 2011. It’s ironic that the third track, “Playing House,” features How to Dress Well’s Tom Krell. It’s almost too good of a match-up, one made in independent heaven. The reason for the irony though, is that You Are All I See suffers from the same identity crisis on its tail end as Krell’s second album, Total Loss.
Both records strut their stuff for their respective first halves, but lose all pace and stamina to close. Through 5 tracks, You Are All I See could have contended for album of the year in the pop genre. But any hopes of such praise is marred by inconsistency on the B-side.
It’s disappointing because the eponymous opener “You Are All I See” is a gorgeous introduction: wispy and delicate, like watching a watercolor painting develop right before your very eyes, Grossi’s voice sating the cherubs. You Are All I See follows with “Hanging On,” an earworm you won’t want to rid. “Playing House” at track three makes for one of the strongest trios of any dream-pop album out there.
But after “See Thru Eyes and “High Priestess” at track 5, the album deviates from beats and enters some bizarre synthscape nebulous. Though roomy and minimalistic, the final half lacks form.
This is best evidenced by the alien voice-bending on “Way Too Fast.” While true that Grossi has pipes, forcing his vocals through Area 51 phasing is a bit much.
Thematically, as it was with much of How to Dress Well’s Total Loss, the primary narrative is forlorn: lost love and rejection. Seems to fit the nature of the harp- soulful, but reflective of life’s missing pieces.
It’s a shame that bonus track “Call Me Tonight” fails to make an appearance on the full release – though it bares more resemblance to the Drive soundtrack (or perhaps Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop) than the rest of You Are All I See.
After a two year period since the release of this album, Grossi released a single this year called “Evening Ceremony,” and it’s a harrowing slow burn. Have a listen here:
While You Are All I See was the jump-off for a few tracks, it could have been better suited as an EP, like Curtis Lane. Regardless, I’m excited for the next Active Child release, because harp seems to be one of those avant-garde instruments that can put a soulful R&B beat over the moon.
From his debut full-length, this is Active Child’s infectious “Hanging On” –
Standout tracks: “You Are All I See” and “Hanging On” and “Playing House”
Weakest track: Collectively, tracks 6 through 10.
RIYL: How to Dress Well, Poliça, M83. Synth-pop, electro-pop, ambient dream pop.