It defies easy explanation as to why Brooklyn’s Shy Child released an album called One With the Sun during a particularly cold and snowy New York City winter. It’s even more perplexing that many tracks celebrate the frivolous joys of summer, conjuring up images of suburban summers and childlike wonderment of the mysterious, awesome power of the sun. Political themes are pervasive, illustrated mostly in a “don’t worry about the government” kind of way. The band does manage to find the correlation between the disparate imagery, and incongruously enough, its sunny, buoyant and unforgivably positive electro-party-pop has become for some — myself included — the soundtrack of winter.
Pete Cafarella and Nate Smith, the duo behind the band, spend most of their time in other bands, making Shy Child seem more like a fun side project than anything else. Cafarella is a member of Supersystem (until recently called El Guapo), and Smith drums for Touchdown. Cafarella appears to be a bit of a keyboard virtuoso; live, he adeptly handles sole vocal duties while simultaneously stabbing effortlessly on a gui-board slung at waist level. Smith handles the drums with ease, hashing out often complex poly-rhythms with liberal doses of cowbell work. It is he who allows the songs to transcend the white-boy post-punk rhythms that have only recently begun to quell in the city the band calls home.
“The Noise Won’t Stop” opens the record with an unrelentingly infectious groove and eagerness that sets a tumbling-forward momentum that characterizes the album. “Sunshine” continues the frenetic onslaught with a sped-up reggaeton-inspired beat. Caferella’s gifted with a superb voice that combines equal parts urgency and nervousness, not at all unlike Animal Collective’s Avey Tare. The song’s constant refrain — “Joy and pain/ sunshine and rain” — effectively sums up the album’s themes, one of which is the recurring allegory of weather. The band shrewdly lets us ponder the images.
The album loses steam about halfway through, but it’s noteworthy still that Shy Child knows that an album can’t be comprised solely of catchy singles. In their potentially limiting genre, the two make favorable attempts at stretching the boundaries, though the results are mixed. “Technocrats” should contain more social commentary, but the lyrics of the somber “Take Me There” should contain more meaning.
Shy Child is the kind of band that will interrupt its live set to ask for an update on the score of the Red Sox-Yankees game. While the band’s earlier material was more prog-influenced in its structure, and thus somewhat bloated, Caferalla and Smith have wisely pared back their pretensions, creating an impressive dance-pop record with songs that move and challenge preconceived notions of the genre. Most important, they’ve learned that brevity is essential in a pop record. If the world can wait long enough, this summer may be Shy Child’s.