10 Feb 10
Texas born, England raised former Test Icicler and prolific musical figure Devonté Hynes gets a lot of coverage on here, not just because of our deep love for the guy but its because the world is rarely complete without a hastily prepared bootleg or news that hes working with so and so. “Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You.” is the second album from Dev under the Lightspeed Champion name after 2008’s fantastic “Falling Off Lavender Bridge”, an anti-folk album dressed up in Americana that. “Life Is Sweet”, by his own admission, might as well be his 50th album, only this is the one he chose to record in a studio with the record companies money. A fine choice, indeed.
“Life Is Sweet” opens with “Dead Hand Blues” opens with a bass kick slowly being joined by acoustic guitars and block piano chords as Dev sings “I know your happy, and that’s lovely, it wont keep me complete” using his new found vocal range, backed up by strings it builds upon its ballad base working towards organ and electric guitar “Just let me meet this guy soon/he don’t appreciate you” ending on an atonal note at its peak, moving into first single and most immediate song “Marlene”, blending throbbing bass line and 70’s guitar tones for a satisfying strut along the lines “Everybody knows you want a baby/And god knows everybody wants one too” an unlikely chant but one that you wont be able to resist.
“There Is Nothing Underwater” is played on a Ukelele, alright, lets get that out of the way because it doesn’t really matter as -in the words of NME- “there ain’t a Mumford in sight as strings and guitars surge, followed by clarinet and pianos” well said, a song for contemplation after the sound barrage, one of the more complete examples of chamber pop on the album and a genuinely touching ballad. “Intermission” is exactly that, a small piano piece before oddball “Faculty Of Fears”, starting out with Dev crooning away on-top of a plucked bass line in one of the most audacious lyrical turns of the album “She was born on a Monday night/In my head, for my eyes/In the theorem of Pythagoras” which then gets rhymed with pace before throwing itself into one of its most epic moments, stomping along with strings, scratched guitars. “If your hearts screaming take me home/Then hail a cab and turn off your phone”, its clear he’s reached potential for true scope in his song writing.
And now, some history. Around a year ago the man himself moved across to New York in the search for a better life, a fact that dresses the album in all sorts of references, not least in “Big Guns Of Highsmith” which acts as his goodbye to England “Chelsea tee’s and Socrates still haunt me” he sings, over classical piano arrangements as the world male choir chimes in with “Oh just stop complaining!” a true British trait, we miss you Dev. Onwards to “Romart”, the obligatory love ballad “Jot me down in your notebook/Keep the lights low if your sad/Teenage love in a killer pad/Keep clutching your tote bag” comes along in the chorus, fitting its chamber epic feel perfectly. Staccato piano chords and swooning strings greet you on “I Don’t To Wake Up Alone” backed up by that all male choir, a deliberate choice on his part to get that male solo artist feel, its beautifully tender.
After another intermission we’re given the gift of “Sweetheart”, a country frolic and an altogether more faithful rendition of the country style found on album no 1, like a western came crashing into studio and he took the opportunity at hand. “Etude Op. 3 “Goodnight Michalek”” is a piano piece directed at his current girlfriend and a showcase of his clear talents as a pianist (in fact, is there an instrument Dev Hynes cant play?). Closer “Middle Of The Dark” is dark and brooding, a disjointed moment that ping pongs from the epic to the tender with spot appearances from queen-a-like guitars all the way to considered string arrangement before revealing its crowning glory in the return of the male backing group singing “Nicole if you stay with me/I’ll look after you”, it all comes together perfectly in the end.
Life is Sweet plays out more as a sequence of brilliant moments chosen to sit next to each other, rather than a cohesive narrative experience, and that’s something of a problem, you find yourself yearning for more continuity and in that sense the album doesn’t completely succeed. Despite this, Life is Sweet is a beautifully idiosyncratic sophomore effort that charms and disarms you every chance it gets.