Musicians of late seem to be feeling rather nostalgic. Listening to the radio, overt echoes from the 80s are filtering through. That’s not to say that referencing the past is a new trend. Whether it was Mozart lifting influence from the Baroque aesthetic or the Beatles reaping inspiration from 50s rock and roll (John Lennon once divulged “If there hadn't been Elvis, there would not have been the Beatles.”), let’s admit that some of the most magnetic music can often come from a place of the past.
With this in mind, I was particularly looking forward to seeing Part Time play at Brooklyn’s Glasslands. Comprised of David Smith aka Davida Loca, (who alone writes the music), Part Time as a live act, is supported with saxophone, keyboard, bass, drums and guitar. It’s a full, textural sound which - on his debut album What Would You Say? - evokes a dreamy 80s synth pop atmosphere. It’s music that in equal parts reminds me of the excess as well as the awkwardness of that era. It conjures up images of a 14-year-old boy secretly applying his mother’s eyeliner while dancing around his room to Visage. This was the sort vibe that I was expecting. Support act Splash – an all boy group adorned in matching sequined outfits – certainly delivered on this point.
Talking to Smith prior to the show, however, I was surprised to hear and then later witness, that this expectation is somewhat misplaced. “The last album was handpicked from a bunch of songs I sent to the label and I was just kind of stoked to have them wanting to do a first album with me,” he tells me. “So I was like ‘Sure do whatever you want’ but this next album I have more control. With the first album they picked a lot of the 80s electro pop songs but really I like to do a lot of different stuff so the second album will be more diverse.”
This was most evident in his performance. Playing a lot of songs that weren’t on What Would You Say? the set stylistically, was imbued with retro shades, but instead of the buoyant synth pop we’ve previously heard, it was a raw, more contemplative sound. At times, Smith’s singing reminded me of the desolate yearnings of Morrissey crossed with Ultravox. Compelling, sometimes sad, but still danceable. “I like the 60s, 70s and 80s. I don’t like the 90s too much. I’m just into good classic music,” Smith tells me. “I like that old sound. It’s got character and a lot of personality. There was a lot of good musicianship back in those days.”
Eschewing software programs for real instruments, Smith taught himself how to play guitar, bass, keyboard and drums by listening to records that he liked growing up. In the past, he was part of various different garage and punk bands but it was three years ago in San Francisco that the music he was making under the moniker of Part Time caught the attention of his current record label Mexican Summer. American indie pop band The Drums then took an interest in his debut album and subsequently asked him to support them on tour. “They [The Drums] got a hold of it and really loved it,” Smith recalls. “So that was awesome. But I don’t wear skinny pants, I’m not good looking and I’m not used to playing to 15 year old girls. That’s cool but I’m not a 100% a pop act. So it’s weird because I’ll play some songs off the first album and then some other songs, which other people might recognize from more of my music off cassettes that have had prior release or demos that are grittier. And sometimes it throws them off. ” If his performance at Glasslands was anything to go by, then a grittier second album that throws people off is certainly most welcome.
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