Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tom Vek – Luck (2014)

„Who the heck is Tom Vek?“ asked a member of one team at the music quiz in Tallinn about a year and maybe a half ago after one of the answers turned out to be „Nothing But Green Lights“ from Vek’s 2005 debut album „We Have Sound“.

Almost superstar in some, admittedly small scenes, now 33 year old Vek or Thomas Timothy Vernon-Kell to his teachers and tax collectors, is still relatively unknown to larger crowds and still bubbling under.

He seems to be alright with that as with every album, tho „Luck“ is still his third, Vek drifts further and further away from mainstream. While „We Have Sound“ and his sophomore album „Leisure Seizure“ were still more or less pure pop, no matter how offbeat, „Luck“ can be at times pretty tough to listen to.

Again, Vek doesn’t seem to try much, if at all to appeal to wider audience, having taken 7 years off from music industry between his first and second album. On the other hand, wider audience seems to be a bit immune to his music as even appearing on „The O.C.“ and the soundtrack of „Grand Theft Auto IV“ didn’t achieve much for his fame. Does he care? Doubtful.

Early years or Sid from "Skins" minus the beanie. 
Sometime around releasing the debut album "We Have Sound".

At first listen „Luck“ can seem rushed and unpolished, chaotic and almost schizophrenic, quite as if it were thrown together randomly and never revisited. But going back and listening again and again, you’ll be drawn in and at some time it dawn that sounding random at that level need lots of work and clever planning.

„Luck’s“ opening track „How Am I Meant To Know“ starts as a slow thumping noise, unmistakenly tomvekkian, „Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)“ starts the dance and doesn’t compromise, being as catchy and dancable as Tom Vek has ever been. See and hear at your next indie disco and let’s see how many of you will come asking who the performer is in the songs four minute duration. My bet would be about five of the eleven attendees.

Vek’s music is so unmistakenly his own that if you’ve heard him once, you’ll probably recognize his voice and sound always. As first two tracks could very well come from any of his previous records, third, „Broke“ shows some new and fresh developments, Vek moving a bit towards the sound of Beck, which can’t be a bad thing (especially for rhyming purposes) and really isn’t. Then come the sounds that remind a soundtrack to some old Turkish films and even then sounds Vek as much himself as ever.

There might be bit of notion that Vek is better listened one or two tracks at a time than the full album at once as it all’s still quite the same. Maybe framed by some other artists, keeping shuffle mode on all the time. Quite fitting as that seems more and more to be the way we listen to music anyway.

Tom Vek - Broke

After six singles from his debut,Vek has so far released only three more, tho „Luck“ probably and hopefully will be a source for many to come. It should at least. Vek for me has always been an artists for releasing everything as singles more than as albums, let’s only hope his record company feels the same.

Having dicovered Vek quite soon after he released his debut in 2005, i’m trying to imagine my thoughts if „Luck“ would be my first time meeting his music. Vek channels for me the best parts of music history, pairing Talking Heads with Gang of Four, throwing in LCD Soundsystem and pouring symphonies from alternate universes all over this mixture.

Look, mom, I'm a vase. Vek in 2014, looking at something we can't see.

Mumbling, screaming and just talking quietly to his listener, Vek sounds at all times content and confident, as he’s once again, third time in a row, created the best album ever made. At the same time his music might sound like it’s never meant to enter outside world but stay for ever between the six walls of his studio, bedroom, shed or wherever his magic happens. But it might be the same thing, you can be confident if your creating music only for yourself.

„No time for existencial crisis,“ declares Vek in second to last track „The Tongue Avoids The teeth“ and yes, as eclectic and all over the place „Luck“ sounds, there’s no crisis here. That chameleon really seems tobe his true identity. Even when he picks up the acoustic guitar in „The Girl You Wouldn't Leave For Any Other Girl“ and almost thrashes it, at the same time wailing and screaming as desperately as a street musician 20 cents lacking of his next dose of cheapest beer.

Best in class at camouflage.

While the overall concensus seems to be that „Luck“ like „Leisure Seizure“ three years ago deserves lukewarm reviews at best, there’s much to discover and while it probably really won’t reach the explosion that was „We Have Sound“ (has it really been nine years?), it’s still one of the highlights of 2014 and offers many positive surprises, sounding at times as fresh as ever. Take „You’ll Stay“ for example, which sounds like a travelling circus riding through a meat mincer.

Tom Vek - Nothing But Green Lights (from debut album We Have Sound)

And, as Underrated probably remains his middle name for every member of his fanbase, Vek stays the best thing ever for select few and total unknown for everybody else, and it might be best for everything except his bank balance.

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