Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alan Wilkis - Babies Dream Big

While my interview with Alan Wilkis gave some long-winded insight into the man and his music, let me try and condense it a little bit. Mr. Wilkis is from NYC and currently resides in Brooklyn. After receiving his degree from Harvard he was a member of various bands/projects that focused on more hip-hop than solo pop fare. With parents from almost opposite backgrounds and eclectic musical tastes Alan's music is a continuation of America's melting pot society. His influences cover a wide range of hip-hop, R&B, Motown, electronic, Latin flavor, and Rock. But what is probably most evident is his affinity for the dawn of 8-bit video games and their accompanying music. Rarely do you hear such self-assured execution of 8-bit sound. Normally, those types of sounds sound out of place, ridiculous, or just don't mesh well with more modern instrumentation. Alan manages to find harmony (in more ways that one) between his retro-futuristic sounds, electric guitars and occasional thumping bass.

Alan's solo debut album is Babies Dream Big (2008), and in his own words it is "an ambitious exercise in stylistic cross-pollination, paying homage to the soul, R&B, classic rock, and electronic music of the 60’s - 80’s." He's pretty much spot on with this description. The first time I listened to his album I had no idea what to expect. I had (admittedly) barely read his accompanying letter explaining his influences and his process. When I began listening it took me a moment to adjust my ears. There were so many various influences coming together that dissecting each piece was giving me a headache (in a good way). I had to turn off that function in my brain and just go with it and dissect later. Alan's debut is ambitious, adventurous, and a bit audacious. He explores a lot of territory that ranges from fun and playful to a little plaintive and melancholy, all the way back to dance-worthy pop. All of this in a scant 43 minutes. Normally, an artist is taking a chance trying to pull together so many strings but he manages to pull it off rather well. There will be tracks you'll enjoy more than others, but none that should have stayed in the can. In fact, there are a couple personal faves that stay in my head for a while after hearing them ("Girls On Bikes" and "Bad Mamma Jamma"). Overall, I can't wait to see what Alan cooks up next.

"Bad Mamma Jamma"

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