If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the four years I’ve been working for this webzine, it’s that every burgeoning artist should get the benefit of the doubt. To make a lucrative, successful career in musical performance was a frustratingly volatile pursuit well before file sharing and streaming media changed the game, but even though the Internet has transformed music’s distribution into a relative cakewalk, it’s also upped the ante in terms of competition. Makes you wonder if we’d still be having that Beatles vs. Rolling Stones debate if Bandcamp had existed back in 1965.
In 2012, there are many bands – including the very one about which I am writing – that have been slogging it through years of torrent downloads, Myspace pages, and Soundcloud streams. Over time, through relentless touring and self-promotion, there is the expectation that songwriting skills and artistic visions will sharpen despite being in the throes of a perpetual knock down drag out battle to nab another “like” on a Facebook page. With a little luck and some social networking savvy, these groups will sift through the digital ether and eventually find some semblance of fame. Alas, I don’t see this end result coming to Brooklyn duo Todd Is Each New Moment anytime soon.
This buddy act – comprised of Thomas Wilk and Bryan Hamill – churns out bursts of New Wave and synth pop-influenced electronica in quintessential DIY style. Their Internet omnipresence (CD Baby, Vimeo, Youtube, etc.) isn’t all that odd by today’s standards, until you consider that these guys have been doing their thing since the dawn of the new century. Listening to their latest 4-song EP (A Thousand Nights), questions regarding the band’s almost insubstantial ascent are met with hasty responses. Bluntly stated – A Thousand Nights is a meandering mess of synthesizers and drum samples, teeming with ideas but lacking in any formidable direction or zeal.
The album’s title track sets its course with skittering percussion timbres and ominous Depeche Mode-influenced synth rock, before singer Jake Davidson – who apparently doesn’t hold membership in this outfit – begins warbling lines like, “A thousand nights on the blackest sea” in a stuffy tenor that pits Joe Strummer’s sloppy locution with the warbling inflections of Girls’ Christopher Owens. The track is produced with enough lush atmospherics and analog electronics to warrant its fair share of 80s references, but unlike the genre’s forebears, Todd’s songs are plagued by a listlessness unlikely to be found on Violator or a Soft Cell record.
Since nothing is really given the opportunity to marinate, these tunes ultimately fail to gel. On “Flooded Highways,” the band veers back and forth between perky electro pop, woozy psychedelia, and blues-indebted riffage, all within the first minute. It certainly doesn’t help the cause that Davidson can’t really carry a tune – on “Traps,” he singsongs his way through dopey clunkers such as, “There are traps / there are traps / out of sight / out of sight / in my heart/ and in my home.” “Uneasy Dreams” is a jittery amalgam of ray gun effects, nasally vocals, and syrupy keyboard tones.
The benefit of the doubt – I gave it to Todd Is Each New Moment when I first learned that, despite years of diligent music making, only 176 people “like” this band. At first, I found it hard to accept that number as some veritable qualifier of success. Benefit applied. Having now spent some time with A Thousand Nights, I’m vetoing it entirely.