David Singer – The Cost of Living

David Singer
The Cost of Living

Chicago’s David Singer is a unique and talented songwriter with something unique to offer. How often, these days, can you say that about a musician or band, really? That’s not to say he’s starting an entirely new genre of music, but his mixture of styles creates something that feels fresh, and for that I thank Singer.
On this, his debut album (he is also a member of the band Kid Million), Singer proves he has the ability to write catchy and pretty pop songs. But he mixes in electronic beats, samples and loops to several songs and bits of an indie rock sound, resulting in these songs sounding quite different but equally endearing. Add to that the fact that Singer wrote and played almost every instrument himself and that his songs are quite well formed and well written, sung with a kind of sincerity you’d expect from balladeers such as Elliott Smith, and you get an excellent result.
“The Accident” kicks off with a Beatles-esque ballad, composed of equal parts light, melodious harmonies and bursts of electric guitar with a subtle electronic wash of noise in the background, while the title track follows more in the vein of Elliott Smith, a singer-songwriter pouring out their heart with a nice sense of melody and some pretty piano. “There’s always been part of me that no one really knows / and so it goes / I never could have lived that life / a mannequin / somebody’s wife / the cost of living’s worth it I suppose,” he sings.
Things change up a bit on “I Need to Be Able to See You.” Centered around an electronic beat, sampled vocal loops, and piano, I’m almost reminded of a Moby song, yet I like the direction this track goes. “Base of My Skull” is much more guitar-focused and edgier than the previous songs, returning to a rock root, and some of the best lyrics on the album are on this stellar track: “If I should die before I wake / it’s not for heaven’s sake.” It’s followed by a psychedelic ballad, “Hawaii,” complete with high-pitched lyrics and a kind of warbly guitar.
“Will” is a quiet, more mellow and introspective affair, yet there’s still an edge, making the song more rock-based and not folk or quiet moodiness, which does come in on the more folk-styled “Madonna Complex.” The closer, “Table of Elements,” ends with another strong track. Combining equal parts of a Beatles-style melody and more modern, indie-rock songwriting, this song is strong and quite moving yet still maintains a subtle rhythm and quiet beat.
This is not your typical Deep Elm album. If a label can have a definitive sound – and that’s not a bad thing – you’d have to say this is really quite different from the general style of music on a Deep Elm album. It’s nice to see the label branching out with music that’s more based in pop songwriting and unique instrumentation, and clearly Singer was a good place to start. While I think Singer’s best songwriting days are ahead of him, this is still an excellent debut.