The Private Spotlight
Now this may seem to be an irrelevant starting point, but I’ve been a huge fan of Adam Carolla since around 1996, which is when I first started li
stening to Loveline. I’ve always enjoyed his very blunt and irreverent sense of humor as well as his tendency to maintain a realistic view of the world. One of the topics he frequently covers on his morning show, The Adam Carolla Show, is music. And, finally coming around to the point of all this, he often makes fun of music from particular decades for not being particularly “timeless.” “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, for example, is clearly a song from the 80’s because of it’s incredibly simplistic, synthesized beats and keyboards. By the same token, I don’t think anyone would place “Fun, Fun, Fun” by The Beach Boys anywhere else besides the 60’s, even if they had never heard it before.
I say all this because T.H. White is an artist with a multi-decadal (Did I just invent a word? No, I looked it up. It exists.) sound. His new album The Private Spotlight includes elements of 70’s rock and funk, 80’s R&B and new wave, 90’s alternative rock and trip-hop, and contemporary electronica. As a result, you can’t pin his musical form down to a single decade and say, “This is where it belongs,” as you can with Soft Cell and The Beach Boys. Maybe you attribute individual songs with a particular decade, but overall T.H. White has a very expansive sound, which almost sounds like it wouldn’t work in concept just because there is such a drastic difference between the genres being combined. You wouldn’t imagine 70’s classic rock and 80’s new wave melding well togethering, yet it all works out in the same way that Beck’s genre-bending music somehow pulls so many conflicting elements together.
I’ll have to admit that I’m indulging in a little exaggeration in the description of T.H. White’s style by making it sound a little stranger or more groundbreaking than it really is. I just want to get the point across that he produces high quality tunes that are not easily pigeonholed into a particular genre. In fact, The Private Spotlight reminds me a lot of Simple Things by Zero 7, another stylistically far-reaching album by a band that is primarily labeled as “electronica.” I would also include T.H. White in that very broad category, but the infusion of rock and funk into his compositions can really increase the energy levels beyond what is characteristic of Zero 7 and other, mellower artists.
There are few songs on The Private Spotlight that stand out either for reasons of quality or uniqueness. “Private People” and “The Loft” stand out because of their more funk and R&B oriented sound. Both tracks make extensive use of the rhythmic, almost the percussive guitar playing technique that is typical of classic funk as well as catchy, pulsating beats. The vocals found on “Private People,” provided by Meghan Wolf, are very reminiscent of early 80’s R&B while “The Loft” uses vocal samples that exemplify traditional funk and R&B. In fact, I could imagine driving around in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City listening to “Private People” on the same radio station that played “Juicy Fruit” by Mtume. Sorry for isolating those of you who aren’t gamers or who haven’t played Vice City, but it provides a good context for those who are in the know.
Anyway, “Katie Starr of Silver” also stands out for being a little more heavy on the rock elements than any other song on the album. T.H. White’s singing on this track reminds me of Damon Albarn of the Gorillaz and Blur. In fact, I bet you that I could convince someone that this song is a rare, unreleased track by the Gorillaz that was recorded in the 90’s. It has that kind of alternative rock meets electronica vibe that the Gorillaz have. And it’s also pretty fun and catchy. I think I’m going to have stop writing right now and spend the rest of my time scheming.
Purchase The Private Spotlight by T.H. White
T.H. White – Private People
T.H. White – Katie Starr of Silver
T.H. White – The Loft