If you’re seeking that Mac Demarco laid back singing and washed out guitar sound, but with the compositional intelligence of an early, Syd Barret-led Pink Floyd translated to the 21st century, the search has ended. Comparing PAINT to Mac Demarco, though, seems a bit of a short sell. While there are aspects reminiscent of Demarco, the LA-based band makes so much more of them in terms of their music’s both driving and light-footed energy, and their delightful sense of humor, lacing their songs with a carelessness that, in reality, takes a lot of care to evoke. This is especially true of their brand new, 14 song long release (with two bonus tracks), Spiritual Vegas, in which PAINT presents whimsical melodies and songwriting that are both engaging and accessible. It is easily one of the more satisfying listens of the summer.
The tune that lends itself most to this summery, beachy feeling, ironically, is the single, “Land Man”, not to mention the hazy “Meet Me in St. Lucia”. The irony won’t be lost on the attentive listener, who will shortly realize that, while “Land Man” is a driving surf rock boogie, its namesake claims that “I don’t need no surf, I don’t need no sand, I don’t smell that sea, cause I’m not a fan: I’m just a land man”. The song hearkens back to The Kinks’ “Apeman” in its lyrics and quirk, and to the same band’s “Powerman” in its energy. The silliness continues with “Lanolin”, an ode to the moisturizer developed from sheep skin, in which the verses consist almost entirely of nonsensical derivatives of the title, such as “lano-lo, lano-high, lano-kos, allo allo allo”. Its swinging, absurd joyousness is contagious.
There are too many hits to write home about on Spiritual Vegas, but the clear stand out is the album’s darkest: “Ta Fardah”. Sung in Farsi, its delicate melody crawls over the drums using a scale more commonly found in Middle Eastern pieces. The clash of cultures here is particularly stunning, and the doubled voices chanting around the beat give the impression of a kind of spiritual utterance. This brings us to think about the album’s title. Spiritual Vegas is oxymoronic. Contrasting perhaps the least spirit-oriented place on earth with spirituality prompts an irony that recurs throughout the album’s lyrics and bright sounds. Maybe it has something to do with serious play, where fun and humor can be diverting and reverent simultaneously.
On PAINT’s Bandcamp they describe their sound in part as “the substance & the action—it drips, it runs, it changes colors”. With a playfulness such as theirs opposites do merge, both to show the proximity between “colors” and as an end in itself: because it’s fun. A “spiritual vegas” might be possible. PAINT’s Spiritual Vegas is a good place to start.