It’s been a little over a month since I reviewed this Toronto duo’s last album, Babylon Hill. Two months after the release of that album Valued Customer released another album. Babylon Hill sounded like some kind of hypnosis-induced tribal ritual, so naturally the next step for these guys was to create a hip-hop album.
If that last sentence appeared to be a non sequitur, that’s because it is. Valued Customer have shown no fear of being completely out there, and Voice/Drum is proof of that. This album comes across as a lot more smooth than the previous one- the songs are less jarring when placed together. The album title describes the two types of sounds you’ll hear the most- percussion sounds and the vocal contrasts of Patrick Power and Justus. Power has the higher voice of the two, while Justus’ voice goes much lower. Their vocal methods are also quite different, as you’ll find out.
As for the subject matter of their songs, women will figure fairly heavily in them. What struck me is that Power and Justus tend to create characters that are the epitome of douchey guys. The height of this is in “Lil Girl Hoochie Coo” which would be called an extremely sexist song if it weren’t dripping with irony. In the song, the two guys sing as both the guys hitting on the women and the women being hit on. Further, there’s a line where Justus says “I’ve been workin’ out so I smell like shit.”
“Reel Her” and “White Devil” follow in the same vein as the song I just described, but quite differently. The former is a little hypnotic in the repetitive percussion sounds while the latter sounds like a manic rant from a guy who just can’t understand why his girlfriend has left him (but the listener can probably figure it out from the lyrics).
Other than the relentless pursuit of women, there are a few songs that break the voice/percussion structure that form the majority of the songs. “Violent City, Quiet Country” has a quiet beauty to it thanks to Power’s reverbed vocals and the backing of little more than an acoustic guitar. “Ella” is another song about a girl, but the atmosphere is much fuller and sounds almost bluesy, like a throwback to a previous era but with really modern lyrics.
The album is bookended with two very strong songs. Opener “Frank Ocean” is as smooth as they come, and it shows that Power has some great vocal energy with his rapid-fire verbal assault in verses. It also features some irreverent lyrics that I would actually blush at if I wrote them here. “Origami” closes the album with lots of great percussion sounds in addition to a soft piano riff with Justus providing most of the vocals here.
While Voice/Drum is a little easier to categorize than their last album, there’s a lot to love here. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the guys decided to put out a smooth jazz album next.
Top Tracks: “Frank Ocean”; “Origami”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)