The Boston septet’s second full-length release is simultaneously a party, an introspection, and a virtuosic charm.
If ABBA went out in the woods with nothing but a crate of Ahmad Jamal records and a sheet of acid this is the album they would turn out. While tracks like “The News” are full on folk music, songs like “Turning into a Rock” display Midnight Snack’s unique trio of qualities. The beat drops instantly, and a bright and flashy horn melody enters quickly. This move has been said to be the reason for Pharrell William’s unprecedented success, but the “start in the middle with a big wow and stay there” gambit can be heard on Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad” and has been around since music has been around. The beat sticks around on this Midnight Snack tune, but making it much more than a dance song are the warm harmonies from Zoe Gelinas and Katie Richter, and the introspective lyrics. That is the Midnight Snack 1-2-3: tight beat, warm harmonies, and thoughtful lines.
The Times begins with a slinky number called “The Body.” The track declares itself with some wind-swept desert guitar chords before sneaking into a slow and deliberate groove. You could listen to this track a hundred times before you realized it is one of the most straight-forward expositions of the mind-body problem ever written. The eerie but warm harmonies coo “I’m trapped in this body, and I can’t get out. I don’t even know myself, so how could I know someone else?” In virtually every Midnight Snack tune there are subtle arrangements and orchestrations filling the spaces at the back of the music. This creates a peculiar brand of funk–as if Pink Floyd had been a funk band.
What does it mean to call a piece of music “sexy” in 2014? Ever since video killed the radio star, pop music has been more about the performer’s sex appeal than the music’s. That said, Midnight Snack makes some sexy music–and I do mean the music. How is this even possible? Perhaps they are part of a revolution (lead by Esperanza Spalding) of conservatory musicians–Midnight Snack formed in and around Boston’s Berklee College of Music–intent on putting sexy back into music.
While Spalding is definitely a jazz musician, Midnight Snack seem comfortable in their own style, disco folk. They’ve take the best elements of dance music, psychedelic music, and folk music to make their own sound. Earlier this year they quit their jobs to embark on a lengthy tour. This is always a risky venture, but Midnight Snack’s warm and intelligent grooves are a risk worth taking. The band will perform at Hampton Taphouse on Thursday, October 9 at 9:00 for $5.