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The rhythms of hip-hop provide a placemat for nervously melodic splendor and a melting pot of genres. What are we to call this compellingly oddball mélange of rock, rap, jazz, reggae, and other influences, all in sway to some of the most mirthfully self-conscious streams of consciousness you’ve ever heard? We could call it attention-deficit-disorder rock. Or maybe we should just call it Forrest Day, the Bay-area bandleader who’s releasing his self-titled full-length debut on the Ninth Street Opus label.
Cohorts include guitarist Terrell Liedstrand, a bandmate of Day’s since they were both 15, and bassist John Sankey, another high school buddy. Keyboard player Nick Wyner also came on board when the band was founded in 2006, and Jasper Skydecker joined up as their first full-time drummer a year later. When they went into the studio together for the first time, it was with several years of live performances under their belts and a chemistry that Day wanted to capture—and ever-so-slightly digitally tamper with.
“We hit analog tape with everything, but then dumped it into ProTools to manipulate it there,” says Day, who produced the album himself. “So a lot of it is like a big marriage between actual performance and then, in editing, turning some of the songs into loops—though it doesn’t really sound like it, because it’s so analog-sounding.” Day also points out that “there’s not a sample on the record. We brought in real violin players, who were in the room with real saxophones.”
Day’s amusingly confessional songwriting dabbles in social commentary about corporate greed (“Hoarders”) and our overmedicated society (“Meds”), among other concerns. But he returns again and again to everyday struggles common to itinerant musicians and non-musicians alike: bad bosses, lost jobs, debt collectors, and the girlfriend as muse or unwitting patron of the arts. There’s an elaborate work ethic apparent in these meticulously crafted tunes that would seem to put the lie to lyrics that talk about being dreamy, uncertain, and aimless. What we have on this striking debut, then, is a collection of incredibly focused anthems for an unfocused generation.