Not that long into You Are All I See, it becomes quite obvious that Pat Grossi, the mastermind behind the intimate bedroom pop project Active Child, has a great ear for melodies, synth tones, and beats. Grossi is able to construct tracks that nod equally towards electronic music and R&B, instrumentals that somehow manage to sound infinitely lush yet still grounded on a budget tier that will probably make some home-recording hopefuls wonder out loud about why they didn’t mess with their electronic keyboards more often. The other thing Grossi really has going for him is his voice, an effortless falsetto that retains its strength whether he’s belting out declarations or pillow talk murmurs.
Yet, like a poker player holding a royal flush that inexplicably keeps bluffing, Grossi doesn’t allow himself to celebrate his victories, thus preventing You Are All I See from being a total success. Instead of pursuing highlights, we get several examples of Grossi indulging different muses, and the album suffers slightly as a result. In fact, You Are All I See suffers from the exact same problem that plagued another act with a helium-voiced frontman: Passion Pit on their 2009 album Manners. Instead of delivering full products that capitalize on their immediate strengths, both albums pad their triumphs with overdramatic bluster storms that fail to really go anywhere, and it’s kind of a shame.
“Playing House,” Grossi’s collaboration with How To Dress Well’s Tom Krell, is the album’s absolute pinnacle, and one of 2011’s best examples of slightly squirmy R&B, as currently popularized by acts such as the Weeknd or Frank Ocean. Krell takes the role of the slightly skeezy counterpart to Grossi’s wide-eyed romantic over a track that synthesizes The-Dream’s subwoofer-rattling bass pulse with the skybourne synth squiggles of M83. Its placement just before momentum-killer “See Thru Eyes” only drives the point home further that this track should have been the template for the rest of the album, because he absolutely kills it. First single “Hangin On” adds a world of percussive thump to Active Child’s light-stepping tracks through the use of a single snare drum sound while Grossi emotes heavily. “High Priestess” possesses a truly mysterious nature, the ambiguousness of Grossi’s lyrics enhanced by a Knife-like vocal effect draped over his falsetto. “Way Too Fast” is a confessional read into a microphone, while bass drops blast off like depth charges in the background, growing into increasingly huge synth waves.
To be fair, You Are All I See is Grossi’s first attempt at a full-length as Active Child, following last year’s Curtis Lane EP, and for every mis-step like the awkwardly proggy “Ancient Eye,” or the junior M83 vibes of “Ivy,” there are double the transfixing moments definitely worth checking out. Hopefully, Grossi will be able to allow himself to revel in his achievements, rather than constantly try to top himself at every turn.