dan west
d'Animal | l'Ogic (PowerTool/Silber)

Among the mightily multifarious singer-composer-multi-instrumentalist Dan West’s many guises is this latest incarnation as d’Animal. West’s new l’Ogic album is a –– typically for him –– tasty batch of pop goodies which have the added benefit of being high in musical nutrition. West played all or most of the instruments on the album, with help from his LoveyDove bandmate Azalia Snail on soul vocals, harmonica and percussion; Ron Blake on trumpet and fluegel horn; Chris Tristram, bass and guitar, and Dan Potruch on drums.

l'Ogic is as good a compendium of pop music as has been released this year or about any other year, and a good example of the power of genuine musical originality to really shake things up. Meanwhile, West says he thinks his new songs might “wring in a new era of sexual exploration” for these oppressive and restrictive times, and that’s because he’s got a thematic thing coursing through the tracks, concerning love, relationships and raw lust in their many-splendored aspects way high and down low; these pithy themes interpolate other lyrical matters having to do with an artist’s daily struggle to survive the music-biz hustle while keeping his head held high and so forth.

Opener “Hear It (Creeping Down The Alley)” and the driving, thrashy “She Knows Someone” are upbeat and peppy and a lot of fun, obviously, but if you dig a bit they contain a lot of what we used to call substance. The substance in West’s songs never comes at the expense of the musical pleasure, and it comes in numerous ways. For example, the harmonic content, i.e., the chords and their progressions, well, it’s not just how to use a great chord in a great progression, it’s knowing precisely where and when to place it. You’ll hear that in “Gemma & I,” a ‘70s-airy vibe that turns Steely Dan and “Midnight at the Oasis” inside out and further jazzes ‘em up with trés cool ‘Tron shades and kinda suave organ solo, all to fantastically open and optimistic effect. “Country House” is super-catchy even as it intriguingly tickles the twisted melodic strains of the Zombies and, I don’t know, Peter and Gordon? Other arcane sounds, however, lightly drizzle the song with mysticism, so perhaps the point is that West understands how the best pop song might tickle the memory and defy your expectations at the same time.

Dan West is like a kid in the candy store of his own creativity; the possibilities are endless, and catchy doesn’t quite capture how these songs will sear your brain and heart not just with their painterly precision of tonality but for the obvious joy in their making. Unfettered imagination shades and colors the interwoven guitars, keyboards and multitracked vocals of “Man In NoHo,” a tale of contemporary crisis juxtaposing pastoral flutes and acoustic guitars like progressive rock circa ’72. “Signal Path” and “Her Wicked Grace” are new wavy as a device, referencing XTC, maybe, by improving the pop form and its rocking beats with advanced harmonic/melodic material and left-field middle 8s darting in from unusual angles. “Retrofission” is drum ‘n’ bass mixed with melodic vocals, a minefield of electronic effects and an excellent jazzy e-piano solo.

Whereas love tune “Lila Lydia” is an easy loping stroll ą la Kinks/Beatles/Lovin’ Spoonful, and boasting yet another just primo twin-guitar solo, the track’s inclusion hardly represents any clarion call for reviving rock & roll or whatever. As with the rest of l’Ogic, it’s about how thi d’Animal gives a clean wash to classic pop’s required basic elements, shuffles them with such resourceful intelligence and taste, and presents the results of his efforts with such palpable glee.
–– John Payne

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