The self-proclaimed “softest boy in Mississippi” returns this summer with another full-length release—this time just under the schtick-free sobriquet of, simply, Dent May. There may be some sighs of relief over his abandoning the ukulele as featured instrument—in truth, it was never that irksome or cutesy, though his debut album did alternate, at times, unevenly between self-conscious witticisms and simple pop ballads. Thankfully, Do Things deigns any quirky crutches in the name of liberally exploiting his true superpower: solid, Beach Boys–style ’60s shimmer-pop, this time reimagined through thick synths, drum machines, and handclaps.
Do Things retains a curious patina of solitude over its rich, sunny melodies and syrupy lyrics about best friends and weddings, possibly resulting from the fact that May recorded the entire LP alone in his bedroom in Oxford, Miss. After all, a tinge of melancholy is a great indicator of a successful pop track, just look at everything ever produced by the Brill Building writers. However, you don’t have to be all Stephin Merritt about your pop, either—while May has earned comparisons to Merritt in the past (likely due to his quippy lyrics and, well, ukuele-wielding), he’s utterly incapable of producing totally eviscerating ballads. May’s more interested in lamenting relatable disruptions like the quarter-life crisis, as in “Find Out,” with uplifting lines of reassurance like, “Some say that life has no meaning / well, you’ve got to find it for yourself,” or consoling a young singleton dismayed at her sister’s wedding, like in “Wedding Day”: “Don’t worry babe / your wedding day / is gonna come some day / hold on.”
There are obvious forebears to this brand of bittersweet therapy-pop– tomes like Pet Sounds– and May isn’t shy about copping to his Brian Wilson influences. In our current universe of errant twentysomethings navigating an uncertain future, May’s timing really couldn’t be any better. Anthems like “Parents,” with its predictable refrain, “We don’t want to be just like our parents,” champions the youthful fighting spirit, while “Rent Money” stands as an explicit refusal of the workaday world. There’s a deep sincerity here among the saccharine, and no amount of painstakingly throwback falsetto harmonies can shroud May’s songwriting from its fluttering, well-intentioned heart.