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Discovery 'LP'

Auto-Tune-Up

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)

By

Discovery 'LP'

Discovery 'LP'

XL Records

The Software Slump

At the 2008 Grammy Awards ceremony early this year, alt-rock mainstays Death Cab for Cutie showed up wearing light blue ribbons, as a form of protest against "Auto-Tuner abuse," railing against the computerized pitch-shifting software that's overrun pop music. For his latest 'comeback' single, hip-hop kingpin Jay-Z has declared the "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)," with, ironically, recent Auto-Tune abuser Kanye West handling Auto-Tune-free production.

Into such a storm of anti-Auto-Tune sentiment steps Discovery. Though named after a Daft Punk album, this is not some proggy dance-music act, but, rather, the project of a pair of bonafide indie-poppers: Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot. And their debut disc as Discovery, titled simply LP, is a study in Auto-Tune use and abuse; an album of pop-songs fashioned from the blips and bleeps of pure digitalia, with Miles' voice funneled through the omnipresent digitizing software.

Given all the outlandish accusations of cultural appropriation that greeted Vampire Weekend's workings with West African pop rhythms and modalities, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that the claws will be out for Discovery; that VW backlash will meet Auto-Tune backlash —not to mention backlash from VW devotees hoping for more preppy, guitar-driven indie-pop— in a perfect storm of (self-)righteous vengeance.

Interfacing the Truth

Yet, as Jace 'DJ Rupture' Clayton pointed out in an illuminating essay for Frieze, "rather than novelty or some warped mimetic response to computers, Auto-Tune is a contemporary strategy for intimacy with the digital." And, nowhere is this potential seen more, on Discovery's album, than with "Can You Discover?"

A re-working of "Can You Tell?," the choice lovesong from Ra Ra Riot's The Rhumb Line record, the emotional interplay no longer comes from Miles' voice playing off against string sections, but against pitch-corrective software. With his every melisma sending a digitized shiver through the warping words, these shudders feel, strangely, like frissons of genuine emotion.

Of course, anyone who sees swapping orchestral instruments for computer programming as being somehow anti-musical (or anti-humanist), well, this Discovery record isn't for them. But for humans whom enjoy the sugary pop fizz of either Vampire Weekend or modern radio-ready R&B programming —and don't draw distinctions between the simple pleasures of either— there's enough sinuous melodies, thudding bottom-end, and synthesizer oscillations to make for a charming, half-throwaway side-project.

The Glad Facts

Batmanglij and Miles have, it should be noted, both done time in Dave Longstreth's Dirty Projectors; so, when Discovery invites along current DP dame Angel Deradoorian to knock out the bubblegum bounce-ballad "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," it's keeping things close to home. Comparisons will run rife with Dirty Projectors' breakout single "Stillness is the Move," but Discovery plays things far more FM-playlist-aping straight; the comparison only making you realize how ridiculous, oddball, and outlandish "Stillness is the Move"'s approximations of bass-heavy production really are.

Another familiar guest-spot face comes from Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig (who, incidentally, once reviewed Dirty Projectors for Dusted, then joined the band). He parries with auto-tune's forceful perfectionism on "Carby," which, for all its glue-buzz bass and club-centric lyricism, sounds incredibly twee and tinny. Which is probably the desired effect, given LP plays like a serious study of silliness (or vice-versa).

Tellingly, Discovery's robotic retooling of the Jackson 5's Wedding DJ stand-by "I Want You Back" screams 'novelty song,' but it's quietly subversive. Throwing the feelgood disco into a hall of software-plug-in mirrors, it's recomposed as kaleidoscopic digital oscillations whose pitch-corrected glissando stutters and flutters rather than glides. It sounds more like a shrill ringtone than a tuneful pop-song, but that's the point. Where Jay-Z plays the curmudgeon begruding the new, Discovery happily wade knee-deep into digital fodder and see if they can find meaning in it.

Record Label: XL
Release Date: 7 July 2009

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
LP: A Solid Start to a Great Collaboration, Member cadecker9

Discovery is a recording project by Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend and Wes Miles, the Vocalist from Ra Ra Riot. Their debut album “LP” is an indie rock, electronic and funk album with synths, snaps, claps and everything in between incorporated into 11 tracks (I bought the album with “Orange Shirt(rock remix), a bonus track). Although it is definitely not a flawless album in my opinion, the talent musicians involved in the creation of “LP” definitely shine through and makes it an album that has caused a lot of discussion on blogs and review websites. Not to mention, the album cover is very trendy and catches a lot of looks in music stores. Little do people know when they buy this album with an awesome cover that they are about to delve into an album of beat-rich tunes that have an indie/alternative feel with a kick of hip hop added to it. It isn’t an album that catches listeners after the first time, but I was hooked by the fourth play. So what is my favorite song of the album? Without a doubt, I am obsessed with track 5, “So Insane”. It has an awesome under beat and a chorus that is constantly playing through my head now. Another great thing that I like about this album is that even though they use an auto tuner, they use it in moderation. When overused, it can totally ruin an album. However, Miles was auto tuned just enough to give it an electronic/hip hop effect without being too unrealistic. Another favorite, surprisingly, is the Jackson 5 remake of “I Want You Back”. When I looked at other reviews, it was one of the most criticized and while Miles is super auto tuned, besides “So Insane”, it was the first track that really caught my ear. It was an original touch to have a song that most people already know and give it more of a hip hop/ electronic mood. The rolled background beat and synth instruments changed the entire dynamic and I really enjoyed listening to it. The beginning and chorus of “Carby ft. Ezra Koenig” are also really catchy. He sings the lyrics very choppy with a major emphasis on words that go along with the cymbal in the background which adds a purpose to those words and makes it way cool. One track that really threw me off on the album was the first track, “Orange Shirt”. It really confused me as to why Discovery would place this track at the top, because it is in no way a strong track and really does not set the mood for what the rest of the album was like. Although, I really liked the synth background around the 50 second point. On a scale of 1 to 10, what would I give “LP”? I would probably give these two artists first collaborated album a very solid 7. While I really enjoyed a lot of the songs and overall the album was very catchy, it did have its flaws in a few of the songs and in some cases, I felt that a few of the songs were remixed too much and had too many different electronic synths and factors going along with the words. However, I would consider it a huge success for a first collaboration and I look forward to anything else that Discovery may have to offer in the future. It is definitely worth purchasing for the ¾s of songs that are awesome on the album.

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