Dan Black: ((UN))
Dan Black maybe a pop artist but there is more to Black than meets the eye. The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer has more slashes in his resume than most. On his debut album, ((UN)) Black mixes elements of rock, r&b, glitch pop, and mash-up culture to make a record that is both familiar, poppy, and unique.
If the album’s first single is any indication, Dan Black should be huge. “Symphonies” was first released in Black’s native Britain in 2009. The track was immediately picked up by the BBC. American audiences did not get a glimpse of the single until 2010 but the single performed remarkably well, reaching #34 Billboard Hot Alternative Songs. What made the track such a hit is that Black is not afraid of theft. The beat of the song is directly lifted from Rihanna‘s “Umbrella”. Sure some will argue that Rihanna took the beat from a freeware GarageBand loop, but in pop culture the beat now belongs to Rihanna. Dan Black has sort of a mash-up artist’s mentality, the cultures familiarity with the beat will only make them pay more attention to the single more. Of course, Black’s slightly high and whiny voice and his string programming also made the single hard to ignore. The track is the kind of pop song singers pay songwriters thousands to write for them, but Black wrote and recorded the song himself in his Paris apartment.
While it might be easy to think that “Symphonies” is a fluke, ((UN)) proves that it is not. The album is filled with unbelievably poppy tracks. “Alone” sounds like LCD Soundsystem featuring the lead singer of Passion Pit with a breakdown supplied by Fleet Foxes. If that description does not get hipsters excited, I don’t know what will. But that kind of “everything that is good in indie music right now” hodgepodge is what Dan Black seems to do so well. He has said “what I do is obviously a hybrid-y thing…Since I like all these disparate things, I try to just make them come together as naturally as possible”. ((UN)) proves to be a cohesive record despite the varying influences.
The only complaint I have about the record is occassionally the songs are TOO poppy. For instance, the titled “I Love Life” makes me think the song should sound like the Black Eyed Peas mixed with Andrew W.K. Instead, the track sees Black doing Madonna in “American Life”-style rapping over dirty synths. Still even with the mediocre verses, the falsetto chorus almost manages to save the track.
Overall, ((UN)) really delivers on the potential of its first single. Black proves himself an adept pop song writer, but maybe more impressive is that the songs are not just pure fluff. They are substantial tracks that are just based in the pop realm. While everyone likes to see artists grow, I think I would remain just as content if Dan Black just makes albums like ((UN)) for the rest of his career.
MP3: Dan Black “Alone”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!
Dan Black: ((UN))