by Seth Graves
If you ain't know, now you know ... local singer/songwriter semi-electro power-popper and recent Ten out of Tenn alum Kyle Andrews is releasing a new album in May titled Robot Learn Love. Fans and skeptics alike would be best off basing how they feel about this from its first four tracks, available now for free on Bandcamp.
It was more or less a year ago when a Kyle Andrew's media surge via NPR and Paste amongst others alerted me to the contagiously singable "Sushi." I found it both amazing and unfortunate that Andrews basically cursed himself by having written a jam so infectious that the rest of his then-recent Real Blasty suffered by comparison. Being an electro-pop enthusiast, I always enjoy Andrews' tunes in that vein most. However, it would seem the majority of his output falls more along singer-songwriter lines, executed in a power-pop style with its electronic elements sprinkled in more as an afterthought. That said, I can't seem to say so much of that about the new stuff.
Obviously a concept album of sorts, Robot Learn Love is centered around a Short Circuit-style experience of a robot learning/longing/trying to become human, as evidenced by song titles like "A Search for a Heart" and "Make Me Feel Human." The former starts as a spacey, desolate plea into an echoic abyss that jumps back into a jumpy but impassioned chorus. The latter is a sparklingly melodic feel-good number punctuated in a classy move in powerpop/electro synergy with a monster classic-rock-style guitar riff.
"Bombs Away" suggests perhaps this robot was at one point programmed to destroy. The most rock-centric of this collection, it's foreboding and ominous without abandoning the record's pop sensibilities. Finally, "I'm Comin' 2 Get U," a simultaneously sentimental-but-menacing, heartbroken, lovelorn, glitchy funk ballad complete with a malfunctioning Auto-Tune croon -- an effect typically employed in lieu of talent, but here more in favor of the "sad robot" vibe that served Kanye West so well on 808's and Heartbreaks.
My first critique in any electronica venture is choice of sounds. The beauty of electronic instruments is that while any lazy or talentless producer has an arsenal of stock, cliche, all-purpose patches ready to go at his or her disposal, these can also be warped, de-tuned, affected and constructed so as to reflect in themselves and in conjunction with each other the very human emotion the song is trying to convey. This comes full circle here as the machines employed on this record mirror the very human element with which the machine in the songs so desperately tries to connect.