Monday, December 08, 2008
2008 has been the year for side-projects of The Strokes to take precedence over the members’ day jobs and here comes drummer Fab Moretti’s turn, as part of a trio borne from impromptu jamming and modest ambitions.
Little Joy sound like a bunch of New Yorkers on a Caribbean holiday. Songs are loaded with breezy melodies, dislocated percussion, punching brass breaks and the inescapable Casablancian sneer of Rodrigo Amarante of now-defunct Brazilian indie-rockers Los Hermanos. Third member Binki Shapiro balances the trio nicely with her understated vocals and multi-instrumentalism – a quality that all members share – and her songs are sweet in a breathy-Isobel Campbell way that offers respite from the more rhythm-heavy songs that Amarante fronts.
Producer Noah Georgeson has captured the ramshackle collaborative nature of the album’s writing well and Little Joy sees a reuniting with Amarante who he worked with on Devandra Banhart’s Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon album. Songwriting credits are weighted slightly toward Moretti which may explain the hardwired lazy-syllable-drag style he picked up from his pals in New York, who, incidentally, it sounds like Amarante learned to speak English from. Songs like Keep Me In Mind could be Moretti’s ‘Ringo’s song’ from the next Strokes album were he able to write for the band. As well as being a competent artist and a decent songwriter, Little Joy sees Moretti’s rhythms more often sparse bossa novas, calypsos than the perfunctory time-keeping role he so rarely stretches out from in his day job.
Songs sung by his girlfriend Shapiro are minor ditties that would garner little attention in their own context but here suit the mood swimmingly. Unattainable or Don’t Watch Me Dancing could easily be soundtracking a closing Gossip Girl scene within weeks and, while it’s not Getz writing Ipanema for Astrid Gilberto, there is a lilting quality to her tracks that make her voice and style seem warmly accommodated and the co-writing credits speak volumes.
Moretti always brought a bouncing beat to Strokes’ tunes and these songs are blessed with the sunshine of his birthplace of Rio de Janiero. That Amarante met Moretti in Lisbon is also prescient for resultant sound of Little Joy with their shared language swathing the closing track Evaporar. It’s a lovely trip and though it won’t tide a Strokes fan over until late next year when their next record is due, it will suffice for summer.