Prolific L.A.-based songwriter/producer and long-time PHW favorite David Shane Smith has put together another new collection of experimental noise/pop songs for the New Year. And after about a dozen spins over the past two weeks I can say that said record, called Controls SM, is Smith’s finest and most fully realized record yet. Thematically, the new album finds Smith writing dense, evocative songs that combine the bleak, looming-apocalypse paranoia of his early work (Wintertower, Angry Earth, and 2009’s previous high water mark Cloud Pleaser) with the more socially and spiritually informed songs of last year’s chaotic Perfect Forms. Controls SM is a typically jarring listen, full of thick, pulsing beats and sharp-edged noise effects, but underneath the clatter are some of Smith’s most melodic and straightforward songs. Recording virtually everything on his own, the songs are aided by strings, pianos, organs, and, on “Global Warming Makes Me Hot”, gorgeous harmony vocals from Ice Truck that temper his more daring experimental tendencies.
In a year that has already seen a seemingly endless stream of great new songs, album closer “Benzene”, with its subtle strings, scratchy beats, and slightly auto-tuned vocals, is quite possibly my favorite. It’s an urgent, drug-addled account of what might have happened to Kid A after growing up and developing a whole new set of issues. Then there’s the aforementioned “Global Warming Makes Me Hot”, which with suggestive lyrics like “Let’s go down by the river, I’m sorry but I’m just a beginner”, modernizes Springsteen’s “The River” into beautiful ambient-pop. Another highlight is “Man Made”, which rides a heavy, industrial strength beat that would, like last year’s “Creatures”, make Post-era Bjork proud. Do yourself a favor and check those three songs out below, and if you dig them half as much as I do you can download the whole album straight from Smith’s website. Click on the “me” button when you’re there.
MP3 :: Benzene
MP3 :: Global Warming Makes Me Hot
MP3 :: Man Made
(from Controls SM. Download full album here)