It’s usually best to start out a review with something cryptic and searching, to the point but also just a little bit vague. For a Dent May review, however, all that pomp seems strangely out of place. In fact, even the act of writing a review – which implies that I have carefully and seriously considered the merits of each song, not only in and of themselves but vis-a-vis his other work – is incongruous with the slapstick indie music that Dent May creates. A more appropriate critique would ax the use of words altogether and simply display a picture of an old man, flanked by a woman with comically large breasts, drinking on the beach and giving two thumbs up (Ed note: Try as I may, I cannot find a copy of this photo.). This would perfectly capture the essence of Dent May’s newest release Do Things, an album that is playful, consciously immature, and packed to the brim with sunny pop melodies.
For his sophomore album May has phased out the ukelele – which was, of course, heavily employed on 2009’s The Good Feeling Music of Dent May and His Magnificent Ukelele – opting instead for synths and drum machines. His unabashedly cheeky hooks and notable pop sensibilities are still intact, but they now evoke Brian Williams more often than Zach Condon. Now, in most cases you could write off the comparison made in the last sentence as simply my way of showing that I know who Brian Williams and Zach Condon are. But, in Dent May’s case, his influences are as important to his music as anything else. He is like Ray Charles before he found Ahmet Ertegun; he can deftly recreate another artist’s aesthetic but he is not yet strikingly original. That may never change, but, then again, if you turn to May for a record to throw on in the background while the joys of summer unfold it doesn’t necessarily need to.
Do Things opens with a bright, bouncy melody and the often untold tale of a musician who doesn’t have enough money. May tackles a number of standard themes throughout the album, but he does so with earnest, amusing lyrics and a graceful croon. “Tell Her” is a gushing love song that pairs its feel-good catchiness with lines like “don’t know how to feel good without her/ only know how to dream good about her.” The disco-infused “Don’t Wait Too Long” notes the importance of striking the iron while its hot, sexually speaking. The tune is also one of the better examples of Dent’s penchant for psychedelia. The twisted guitar solo, the spaced out synths, the heavy use of wah pedal. All of it works nicely to add some color to the standard pop melody.
The eponymous track begins with the sound of rain, announcing itself as the downer of the bunch amidst a slew of feel good numbers. And by downer I mean a happy song that has a few sad lines. May sings “there was a time when I never thought that I’d feel good again.” However, as the sleepy ballad progresses a hopeful message and a lovely bass line start to emerge, and Dent once again finds light in his life. This segues into “Home Groan,” the final and most interesting song on the album. Over a bubbly, 70’s melody, May sings about the conflict that we all have with the place we call home. While most young musicians have made their way out to L.A. Or New York, Dent has remained in Oxford, Mississipi forcing him to ask something we all ask ourselves every once in a while: what the hell am I doing here? Ultimately, he finds that his home has “friends that give life meaning” and while it may not be perfect, he knows that when he is dying “he won’t be trying to still plan [his] escape.”
Dent May doesn’t make albums so they can be reviewed by the likes of me. He makes them so some friends and some other folks can play his music and maybe feel a little bit happy. Do Things accomplishes just that and perhaps that is all that really needs to be said.