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Indie is fun and weird. It's rare to find an example of something that pushes the limits of the genre. We have an example of such with Lambchop's new album FLOTUS, but keep in mind that pushing the limits does not guarantee quality.
FLOTUS has a very specific core to it that it doesn't like to tread away from. It lives off of minimalistic folky beats, which are sometimes backed by fairly groovy basslines. Core member Kurt Wagner handles vocals, using a vocoder for nearly all of the record. There's really only one song that doesn't have this formula: opener 'In Care Of 8675309,' which really rings with a more indie flair than an experimental one. Sweet, light guitar leads the track in as a light drum beat follows it with a bright bassline supporting it behind. The vocoder is only half of the vocal as opposed to all of it, which is nice, too. It's eleven minutes long, but it has a lot of groove to it that supports it throughout its play time.
Unlike much of the rest of the record, 'In Care Of' is actually an interesting song. The rest of the album feels like a cheap knockoff of Bon Iver's brilliant release 22, A Million. It lacks the brilliance of that records minimalism and tries to find integrity within the vocoders in the same fashion as Bon Iver, but fails to hit that point. Perhaps having not listened to 22 would have helped the quality of this record, but with that context, it feels weak.
Title track 'Flotus' is a prime example of the two's similarities. It's a sweeter track that has substance to it, but still feels like it came right out of the Bon Iver record. 'JFK' follows it through, really trying to sell the vocoder influence - listen to the lyrics, because there is not way this song had any other purpose than to make the vocoder prominent.
Another flaw with the record is its pacing. After the initial high of 'In Care Of,' you're left with a bunch of weird tracks with synthesized vocals and robotic beats that try to be profound. You find some negotiable parts to pique your interest - the bassline of 'Relatives #2' in the center of the record, for example. But you feel like you're waiting for something more for the entire record. Two singles are tacked onto the back of the record. The first is 'NIV,' a sweet song that falls victim to the fact the the album has the momentum of a snail. It functions a lot better as a standalone sog - the video for it is very profound. The lead single 'The Hustle' concludes the record, and there's a slew of problems with that. For one, why would you release an eighteen minute track as a single? Also, why would you release a track with virtually no substance as a single? There's the standard first half, then the electronic second half that concludes with a nice piano part. It's not awful, but eighteen minutes is certainly unwarranted.
Lambchop fell victim to trying to adjust to fit a new standard too hard. If you're looking for an album like this, stick with Bon Iver. FLOTUS is a largely boring and disappointing record that starts promising but just doesn't find momentum or a solid footing anywhere.
Favorite Track: In Care Of 8675309 (The music video for 'NIV' deserves a shoutout, too)
Least Favorite Tracks: JFK, The Hustle, Writer
Rating: 49 / 100