Disco has spent decades as the black sheep of popular music, much maligned by guitar snobs everywhere, far past being acceptable, but recently it has become cool to rep Thelma Houston and Andrea True. Even the Yeah Yeah Yeahs openly admitted to having Giorgio Moroder in mind when they penned their new album. It’s difficult to believe that this revival isn’t partially owed to the fact that as technology and technique have improved over the years — it’s a lot easier to produce heavily synthesized tracks than it was two or three decades ago. Also, a healthier sense of self-awareness has allowed us appreciate the illusion and escape that disco allowed fans, and to respond with something that is generally much darker.
Jeremy Jay’s second full-length album, Slow Dance , can’t be strictly classified as disco, but it shares the same calmly danceable, ethereal swaying feel as that genre’s lighter fare, and the record’s overall aesthetic harkens back a couple of decades as well. What Slow Dance doesn’t do is make it clear whether or not Jay has learned the lessons that come with transforming the product of an era gone by.
Style is something that Jeremy Jay has in spades. Listening to his simple melodies, uncomplicated structures and often disinterested vocals, the cool with which Jay approaches Slow Dance is unmistakable, and it is largely the single element that carries the album. For the half hour that Jay spends with us, there is never a moment of doubt about the place where he is coming from.
The danger here is that at times it seems that Jay is too preoccupied with style. His detached delivery, his bizarre lyrical decisions, and the simplicity of his songwriting are curious assets. Though they’re all important legs of the atmosphere that takes up so much of the album, they sometimes create the feeling that Jay is a performance artist whose work with music is some kind of exploratory lark.
His themes too lend the feeling of kitsch. Jay is at once preoccupied with winter, the moon, hanging out, and fantastic stories that usually involve the three concepts previously mentioned. For example in the songs "Gallop" and "Canter Canter," Jay elaborates on some mystical moonlit journey that is so precious he is forced to use the word "moonbeam" multiple times. The execution of the two songs doesn’t make it seem as if Jay’s sentiment is insincere; however, it does seem as if Jay is lost in his own fantasy, one in which the listener is not allowed to take part.
If it weren’t surrounded by songs with general feeling, "Winter Wonder" would absolutely make it seem as if Jay was just screwing with us. The winter scene it paints is so cheesy that Jay is reduced to meekly moaning in the background for part of the song, and the most significant part of the chorus is Jay saying "drop" over and over again.
Fortunately for Jay as well as us, the album closes with "Where Could We Go Tonight?," which combines all of Jay’s thematic loves with the best songwriting on the album. Slow Dance ‘s other nine songs are generally enjoyable, if somewhat goofy, but it’s still kind of a shame that we have to sway in the dark to atmosphere until Jay finally gets it right and makes for the stars.