There aren’t many artists who can remind you of Kraftwerk AND Tommy James & The Shondells. None, actually. But then there’s Gloom Balloon, Patrick Tape-Fleming’s anything goes rock/jazz/synth/pop project. On “Between The Sun And Geography” he not only achieves this seemingly unmanageable task, but makes me desperately want to hear more mashups of these two genres.
The song is part of a new collection of demos being released on St Patrick’s Day called The Songs That Couldn’t Swim. You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Disaster was one of my favorite albums in 2013, so I expected a few good songs and maybe some alternate takes of tracks from the record. Instead these are all brand new songs that could have easily been considered the second Gloom Balloon LP.
The great thing about these songs is that there’s no hint of cynicism to them. Even when they do get dark, there’s always a hopefulness to it. Huge wall-of-sound-style songs about being in love and quiet tunes about how fleeting it can be are given equal weight alongside jaunts about music and friendship.
My favorite aspect of this collection of songs is the wordplay. Patrick works in references to and song lyrics written by some of his favorite songsmiths and twists them to fit his narrative. On the song “A Notice From Otis” he sings, “Kindred spirits and skipping school,sometimes it’s kind to be cruel.” And later on the same track “Closing down every bar, sleeping in the back of your car. Forget Alex and Chris you’re the biggest star.”
I can see why some of these songs didn’t make the initial cut for Gloom Balloon. There are some that bare a striking sonic resemblance to tracks that do appear on YMMFLAND, but a lot of these could have been included. That said, I’m glad all these demos are being put out (and calling them demos isn’t quite right because a lot of this sounds complete). My initial response to hearing Gloom Balloon was “Conor Oberst meets Herbie Hancock,” and I still stand by that. If it sounds appealing to you, go check out their stuff on Spotify and pick up a copy of the record. That should ride you over until The Songs That Couldn’t Swim comes out.