Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Marlene” by Lightspeed Champion from the 2010 album Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You on Domino.
Driving Highway 1 along the California coastline is an erratic affair in which one minute you’re conquering straight-aways at breakneck speeds, and the next you’re cautiously making your way around the unpredictable s curves and treacherously steep climbs. All this with nothing but a guardrail protecting you and your vehicle from going off the cliffs into the breaks of the Pacific hundreds of feet below. Lightspeed Champion’s “Marlene” depicts such a drive with its hodge podge of styles and influences, craggy guitar riffs, and an erratic pace that keeps you on your toes between the song’s three primary movements. Opening with an infectious beat that ominously advances toward the listener, the song gives way to a mysterious western-influenced violin wail. Before you get used to it, the melody shifts gears and the guitar licks go off like wild dance moves all over the bass line. After a quiet interlude with nothing but Devonte Hynes’ buttery, pleading vocals, enters gritty electric guitar fuzz to bring “Marlene” into the homestretch.
A self-proclaimed synesthete, Hynes says he can literally see sounds, and that makes a lot of sense listening to Marlene, where the melodies seem so tangible you can sink your teeth in them.
After the dissolution of the moderately successful punk-inspired Test Icicles, the Texas born, UK raised Hynes traded London for Omaha, and adopted the moniker Lightspeed Champion. His second release from Domino trades in whatever acousticly based “Americana” from Falling Off the Lavender Bridge for dramatically structured, and musical theater-influenced tunes. Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You! is also rife with classical music influences. A profound understanding and passion for his idols is evident in each track. A multi-instrumentalist since the age of 7, Hynes applies this expertise to his textural, often complicated, orchestral pop arrangements, and the heart-on-the-sleeve, bare-naked lyrics nod to his admiration of solo artists such as Todd Rundgren, Harry Nilsson, and Marvin Gaye.
Lightspeed Champion’s tour plans remain on the UK side of the pond for now, but stay tuned to his MySpace page for updates. For now, here’s the video for today’s Song of the Day: