Dan Bodan’s music is driven by the conflict between his gorgeous, traditionally pleasant voice—a voice he likes to use to bring himself uncomfortably close to his audience—and the production he sings over, modern electronic tapestries that can veer from sentimental to corrosive at a moment’s notice. A Berlin resident who grew up in the Canadian heartland and was forged as an artist in the crucible of the Montreal music scene, Bodan has a set of pipes more suited to adult contemporary radio than a spot on venerable NYC label DFA; with his rich, resonant tone and particular phrasing, he’s a little reminiscent of Marc Anthony. But given the sphere in which Bodan is working, more apt comparisons are the work Tom Krell’s doing as How to Dress Well, or perhaps the unvarnished and raw indie-pop of Sean Nicholas Savage. Like these artists, Bodan is unafraid to enter sentimental terrain in the pursuit of something radiant and real, and he does so again and again on his debut full-length, Soft.
There’s an impressive diversity to the sound of the album. Covers of jazz standards butt up against drum and bass tracks. Bodan will summon the chintzy spirit of Destroyer’s Your Blues with a track like dewy opener “A Soft Opening”, only to pivot into amorphous, cracked soul on highlight “Anonymous”. All of these detours are linked by that powerful voice, which he pushes to the edge of its capability in several different ways throughout the record. On “Soft as Rain”, he tests its range and agility over warm, rounded synth tones; one song later, on “For Heaven’s Sake (Let’s Fall in Love) <3”, he takes a song famously rendered by Billie Holiday and performs it with a palpable, unnerving desperation. In his hands, love is a life raft, a dangerous narcotic, a portrait of a partner fractured and faded; by the end of the song, he’s pushing himself in and out of tune and dancing around the beat, as if he’s on the edge of our world. It’s an entrancing, indelible performance, the best of what Bodan has to offer.
Bodan’s approach to vocals—the way he searches out boundaries and then pushes at them—is mirrored in his lyrics, an important part of his cultivation of intimacy on Soft. The album is awash in sensuality, from fraught love stories in miniature like “Romeo” and “Rusty” to the set of songs revolving around the titular concept of “softness.” Bodan is fond of imagery that takes physical acts and tempers them, granting them a sort of gentleness—a good example can be found on “Soft as Rain”, where close contact is reduced to “You fall on me/ Soft as rain”—and numbers, whether it’s seven wasted years (“Soft as Rain”, again) or $50 worth of cheap cologne (“Anonymous”). This dual focus works to give Soft both personality and specificity; it makes the album feel like a true document of Bodan’s life and love in recent years. All that said, when the ways Bodan tries to eliminate distance come together—the voice, the lyrics, the rawness of the emotion on display—the final product can induce claustrophobia. The effect is undeniably powerful, but there’s a fine line between powerful and overwhelming, and his work should grow more potent as he manages to find a balance between the two.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1uIsbnv