Song of the Day: Dent May – Picture on a Screen

Photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg

Photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg

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 DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Picture on a Screen” by Dent May, from the 2017 album Across the Multiverse on Carpark Records.

Dent May – Picture on a Screen (MP3)

In a film like Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick uses absurd comedy to present pure terror. David Lynch often applies the idyllic small-town America as a mask for previously unimaginable cruelty and suffering. And in music, Los Angeles-based artist James Dent May, Jr. — who records as Dent May — attempts something similar with his songs. Here he gives us plenty of melancholy — sometimes on the borderline of creepy — lyrics which get counterbalanced with sweeter-than-sweet hooks.

“Picture on a Screen” is not exactly an innocent song, however. One of May’s songwriting abilities is in hiding a disturbing lyric beneath a saccharine vocal take. The song ultimately hints at technology’s dehumanizing conditioning and male desire as ownership. In concert, May projects pure grandpa spirit with his outdated suits and eyeglasses. It makes his occasional sexual frankness feel somewhere between cute and scary. The hooky pop song carries along with it some real angst. This balancing of old school melody and human longing make for an engaging listen all the way through. 

Dent May is currently on tour (playing tonight at The Earl in Atlanta, Georgia), but no Seattle date currently on the itinerary. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed, and check out a video for the album’s title track (featuring Frankie Cosmos) below.

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