Friday, June 20, 2014

Food Flavored Album Review: Hello Memory by Little Daylight

When I sit back and listen to Little Daylight’s debut full length, Hello Memory (Capitol Records), I immediately start craving a Kung Pao Tofu Slider. This is not your Uncle Larry’s slapped together peanut butter and jelly on stale white bread horror show of a sandwich. The Kung Pao Tofu is the type of sandwich that makes your taste buds dance and twirl and cry out for more, long after last call. Its treatment of all things sensitive to flavor is very similar to the effects that Little Daylight’s Hello Memory bestows on your auditory system. That’s why the two, album and slider, are perfect for each other.

A good Kung Pao Tofu sandwich is built from the inside out. It starts with thinly sliced, extra firm tofu which, despite its title of extra firm, actually has quite a bit of give to it. Put it on a rocking chair, vigorously shake and see how much it dances. Hello Memory is also built from the inside out and can bring a generally firm substance to move unnaturally (I’m talking about myself). This is most apparent on the second track, the wildly popular “Overdose”. To quote myself, when “Overdose” first hit this blog early last year I said: “Stylistically speaking “Overdose” has many things in common with the band’s remixes. The pulsating beats remain. So does the bounce your head rhythm (call it Tribal Flair), the catchy breakdowns and pop affinity. What is not to love? First original song. First “Overdose” that is actually enjoyable. That calls for a celebration.” I stand behind that original assessment although what I didn’t realize at the time is the opportunity for widespread appeal that Little Daylight had just released on the world. It took a bit of time but “Overdose” is finally on the verge of (or already has?) blown up. The band played it live on the Late Show with Seth Meyers and Alt-Nation has started featuring it heavily in its rotation (from June 12-June 18 it was the number five most played song). If they had any sense, mainstream pop and rock stations would be following right behind.

A memorable kung pao tofu sandwich is topped with a slaw of julienned zucchini and carrot to provide a bit of texture disparity. The tofu’s soft interior is the polar opposite of the julienned vegetables crunch . Similarly, Little Daylight’s “Siren Call”, another single released a while back, plays moody counterpart to “Overdose’s” upbeat antics. It is synth driven, with siren like wails over a lush backdrop. Catchy and melodic, just not as sing-alongy as “Overdose”. More appropriate for a back alley movie scene than a dance party.

To pull off the taste coup that this sandwich does, properly seasoned tofu is essential. First it must rest in a bath of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and corn starch for about an hour. Then it needs to be
baked slowly so that each side of the tofu becomes caramelized. This step is best signified by Hello
Memory’s “Love Stories”. This is the track where Little Daylight leaves the dance floor, steps out into the back alley and heads for the bedroom. It is a restrained and reflective attempt at balladry. The
power in “Love Stories” is that Little Daylight shows that they are versatile enough to leave behind the layered backdrops of “Overdose” and “Siren Call” and deal in infinite space.

The zucchini and carrots are mixed with a whisked blend of soy sauce, peanut butter, vegan mayo, sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, peanuts, black pepper and cayenne. This is where the palette really begins to experience things. The saltiness of the soy sauce and peanuts, the sweetness of the sugar, the sourness of the mayo and vinegar, the pungency of the garlic and the spiciness of the cayenne can all be detected after each bite. This dressing really brings the whole slider together, while simultaneously keeping the tastes apart. Little Daylight’s latest single, “Mona Lisa”, packs the same type of varied punch. The track sounds like it came straight from the 80’s because of the synth arrangement. The synths are then paired with a stellar baseline to create the perfect pedestal to place Nikki Taylor’s vocals on. She pretty much shirks the pedestal during the verses but the music keeps building and winding her tighter and when that chorus finally hits she takes her place on said pedestal. “Mona Lisa” is fun, its catchy and it is probably destined for Alt-Nation appeal when the symptoms of “Overdose” wear off.

Even though a sandwich/slider is built from the inside out, that doesn’t mean the bun doesn’t have some sort of bearing. Placing a slider on a lackluster bun is like baking a tasty cake and covering it with dirt icing. Fear not my friends because Hello Memory flings no dirt. “My Life”, the opener, is probably my favorite of the tracks I had not previously heard. It has a funky little dance rhythm to it created by electronic swizzles. Someone has their finger on the button and they know what they are doing. Add in some messages of empowerment and the freedom to do what you want and you’ve got a song that is hard not to like. While the closer “Never Go Back” doesn’t come anywhere near its predecessors, it is still a nice parting shot. It tells everyone that the band has been there, done that, and they won’t be going back. Tough call for a band that has put out such a wonderful album. Still, this unwillingness to go back, has me excited to see where Little Daylight heads next.

Hello Memory’s tracks that have been released as singles: