Written by Paul Lester for The Guardian's Band of the Day column, May 4, 2011.
James Pants: This gentleman takes the sort of high-school pop the weirder kids from Twin Peaks might have enjoyed and fuzzes it up.
The fast turnover of acts for this column demands a general approach to listening – a Bandcamp or Spotify track here, some MP3 or MySpace action there – so we almost forgot about the old-fashioned unit of measure that is the album. Luckily, today's new gentleman jolted our memory. Remember albums? James Pants has just recorded a great one. It's called James Pants, it was made in a Colorado basement before his move to Cologne, and it will be enjoyed by people who liked last year's Ariel Pink LP, Relayted by Gayngs and the recent Kaputt by Destroyer.
As you can imagine from those reference points, we're in avant-garde or leftfield-artist-does-Guilty-Pleasures-MOR-pop territory here. James Pants – James Singleton to his Presbyterian parents, and plain ol' "Hey You White Boy Play Some Music" to the black nationalist rap group he DJ'd for as a teenager – has taken the sort of high-school pop the weirder kids from Twin Peaks might have enjoyed, and fuzzed it up. "The prom-gone-wrong, creepy smalltown rock'n'roll motorcycle vibe really appealed to me," says Pants, who comes from that kind of nowheresville place himself. Think Joe Meek meets My Bloody Valentine, Sandie Shaw sings the songs of Stereolab and Suicide, or Danny and the Juniors in hell. There are deep low baritone male voices and sugar-sweet girl ones, there are electronic beats, swirling FX and swooshing noises: lounge with edge, basically. The kind of cosmic kitschadelia Odd Future's the Jet Age of Tomorrow spin-off project might record. No wonder Tyler, the Creator has called Pants "one of the most creative fucking people to walk this earth".
Maybe because Odd Future have sampled Pants several times, it lends his music an air of transgression. Heavenly stuff, nevertheless. Beta is like a Fairfisa-swirling Meek instrumental coated in Ariel Pink's hypna-dust. On Every Night the vocals are buried deep in the mix, like Alan Vega crooning from a tomb. For the single, Clouds Over the Pacific, a girl in a slinky catsuit does the boogaloo or the watusi or one of those. A Little Bit Closer (even the titles are creepy) opens with a chillwavey/shoegazey haze of prettynoise (TM), becomes a bona fide beautiful dream-pop ballad pivoting on two aching chords, before dramatically switching to mambo techno.
And so it goes on. Incantation could easily provide the gorgeous backdrop to one of Tyler's ghastly booming raps. Body On Elevator is sci-fi muzak like James Last on Venus. These Girls brings to mind Ian Curtis if he was in a 50s doo-wop troupe. The last track is titled Dreamboat – Pants clearly has some misguided fantasy of himself as a teen-pop hunk from the Twinkle era. Still, let him dream. God knows from what murky depths of his psyche he dredges up these songs about "psycho stalker girls and being broke but getting laid", but who cares when the music's this lovely.