Systems Officer – Underslept

Systems Officer - Underslept

Underslept is the debut album from Systems Officer, the solo effort of multi-instrumentalist Armistead Burwell Smith IV, but it is by no means his first record. As a founding member of both Pinback and Three Mile Pilot, Armistead Burwell Smith IV (a.k.a. Zach) has been making great music for over a decade with over a dozen releases between his many projects.

Like Pinback, the replay value of Systems Officer’s songs isn’t immediately apparent even though the slinky bass lines, smooth guitar grooves and dreamy keyboards are readily appealing. What makes these songs special however, is how the depth of the songs is revealed and how the charming melodies get etched in your brain a little deeper with each spin. Only then do you realize that these songs are not only poppy and catchy, but they’re intricately constructed on rhythms and beats that are both dynamic and complex.

Each song is well produced and has multiple layers that are glazed over with a dreamily buzzing haze and vocal harmonies whose heartfelt singing helps the listener form an emotional attachment to the music. The first half of the album is more upbeat with faster-paced tracks that are sharp and edgy but rather in a sytlistic manner as opposed to a jagged fashion. Clever, layered guitar chords are played with precision over soothing keyboard drips and drones while crisp, rhythmic beats form the backdrop for the hypnotic and meditative indie-rock.

The last half of the album is not quite as fetching. The pace is slower and the arrangements more open, and along with the hushed vocals, seems to glide along in sleek but familiar territory. And while the sinuous, laptop pop is never boring, it doesn’t quite reach the same crafty plateau as the album’s first half, so it’s somewhat of a letdown.

But overall, the journey is indeed satisfying thanks to the progressive style in which the songs are performed and designed to be flashy and assertive while also being delicate and atmospheric. Fans of the RIYLs won’t be disappointed.

Recommended If You Like (RIYL): Ratatat, Pinback, Her Space Holiday, Three Mile Pilot and The American Analog Set

Recommended Tracks: “Pacer” and “Quan”

Systems Officer:

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