Sound: Formerly known as Pearly Sweets when he fronted the Chicago-based club rock trio Baby Teeth, singer/ songwriter/ keyboardist Abraham Levitan has taken a short reprieve from the band to try his hand at being a solo artist with the release of his new album Speak, Memory from Lujo Records. Levitan's similarities to David Bowie's tenor pitch and moody vocal inflections are still there, as too are the digitally wired beats and dance-rock traction of Baby Teeth, but what sets Levitan's solo work apart from Baby Teeth is his use of fleshy soul and funk-inspired rock relatable to the UK's Earl Greyhound, and a heady vocal steam that inflames with the likeness of The Heavy's lead singer Kelvin Swaby. Levitan's register has a blue-eyed soul vibe that blooms fully in Weekend At Home, and in Bad Weather which features Kelly Hogan beautifully on harmony vocals as her voice resonates with angelic arches over Levitan's verses.
Though Levitan does not shy away from incorporating Baby Teeth's use of club-drenched pop and artistic detailing in the synth hooks, there is a bit more of a Hot Chip-sensibility in the sleek synth modulations of Slave To Efficiency and the dark glam-rock vapors and experimental sequences of If It Bleeds, Part 1. Levitan puts more weight on funk-tifying the rhythmic grooves and having them drip with soul-fringed tendrils which rarely appear in Baby Teeth's music. The laid-back plucking of strings dotting Sarah (The German Song) pout gently as soft-pop psychedelics engulf it in slow swirling fumes. The bluesy rock textures of Violator are reflective of Iggy Pop's stylistics, and the fleshy soul-rock fibers of Bad Weather are cuffed in petit-sized rumbles and a wheezing organ dirge lining the lower register. The track Please Me starts up with a circus-like jam as gospel-wicked choruses waft in the backdrop. The music has a creamy-dreamy pop ambience with pearlescent keys and shooting vocal arches made by soul singer Snokilla. The album closes with svelte sierra-burning atmospherics of Little Helicopters as Levitan's voice sails across the astral turf with the soul-rock magnetism of Bowie. // 7
Lyrics: Abraham Levitan's lyrics are often private and pinpoint a particular event or situation. He does not generalize his feelings but speaks in specifics like in the song Slave To Efficiency where he addresses, I've been a slave to efficiency since I was a child / Machines all have to die but not me / I sit at home at night wandering what the name of my child is / Why you don't let him live with me / Come on, don't hate me / I'm a person too just like you / Don't hate me / I was once in love with you / And you liked it too. There is a recurring theme in the songs to resolve conflicts with others and with oneself, and the final track Littler Helicopters tries to find peace in the wake of such struggling. // 8
Overall Impression: Abraham Levitan pronounces the strengths in his musicality on his solo album, namely the soul-rock and bluesy textures of his timbres, and the funky propensity of his grooves. He touches on the heavy ruffles of glam-rock and dabbles in shoegazy atmospherics but he shows a preference for club rock curls and processed beats relatable to Hot Chip and Air. He never trails too far away from what he has done with Baby Teeth in the past, but he wanders far enough to sound independent of Baby Teeth. Though Levitan plans on regrouping with his mates from Baby Teeth farther down the road, he does a fine job of keeping his musical instincts sharp and fit on his solo release Speak, Memory. // 7