Gallant … Dark subtexts and ghostly moods
Hometown: Los Angeles.
The lineup: Gallant (vocals).
The background: Forget The Voice, they should do a talent show where aspiring producers are put through their paces. Because it's the overall sound of a record that dictates its success more than any individual component parts such as vocals or guitar or whatever, isn't it? It's definitely the sound of the songs by the artist under inspection today that marks them out, which is saying something because the singing is fantastic, and we don't as a rule give a monkeys about the voice. The voice of Gallant, a 21-year-old from Maryland who moved to New York and now lives in LA, is a spectral warble whose falsetto tremble resembles Michael Jackson if he'd surrendered to his true feelings rather than insisting on pseudo-macho posturing that frankly fooled no one. Without the sonics the singing would be merely arresting. With what Felix Snow does to them and around them, well, it's one of the best things we've heard all year.
One of the best things we've heard, in fact, since March, when we featured a young woman called SZA. We hailed her as the harbinger of a new wave of ethereal, synthsational R&B females, like the Weeknd with added xx (and we're talking chromosomes not the ambient dubstep group), and a lot of what we liked about her was the production, the sheer loveliness of the next-level sonics, which, it turns out, were courtesy of a gentleman by the name of Felix Snow. "I'd be like, 'Can I get some glitter? Can I get some sunshine? Can I get some sparkles?'" SZA told the Fader. "And he'd add wind chimes and whistles." Snow brings some of that divine diaphanous dazzle to bear on Zebra, Gallant's debut EP, released in August. Gallant put out his first track, a straighter pop-dance number called Party Girl produced by William Orbit in tandem with DJ Teenwolf. There was also an acoustic track, Norway, by the singer-songwriter that was all very nice and all if you're impressed by acoustic singer-songwriters.
But it's his team-ups with Snow – who has apparently worked with Eve and Shaggy, although we don't remember any Eve or Shaggy tracks sounding like this – that have made all the difference. They began collaborating on a version of Ke$ha's Die Young, which inverted the exuberance of the original and turned it into a funeral march. "Felix and I turned off the lights, opened all the windows in his high-rise, lit a candle and recorded this cover of Die Young," recalls Gallant. "We really wanted to see if we could reveal more about the song's dark subtext if we brought it into our world. A few tracks on the EP have a similar ghastly vibe."
We're not sure if he meant to say ghostly there but either word works: this is a sort of nightmare muzak – dreamy and lovely, for sure, but with a hint of the deathly. You can just about make out Gallant on Please?, the lead track on the EP, pleading "wake up, wake up!" as though to a lover slipping over to the other side. Here – and on another EP track, If It Hurts – the pair continue the experiments of How To Dress Well and the Weeknd. This is soul drained of all lust, all heft, leaving just the (s)lightest traces of feeling. Robin Thicke? Meet Robin Thin.
The buzz: "The sheer sound of Please? (Vignette) is unbelievably engrossing."
The truth: He's the enervated son of the Weeknd – just call him Shattered-day.
Most likely to: Dress well.
Least likely to: Duet with Shaggy.
What to buy: You can stream all three tracks here. The Zebra EP is released in August.
File next to: Dornik, SZA, Weeknd, How To Dress Well.
-via the Guardian UK