Sinkane - Mean Love | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
Sinkane Mean Love


Mean Love

A finely tuned album with more than a few serious jams.

Comments (0)
Author: on August 26, 2014
City Slang / DFA Records
September 1, 2014

To start, Mean Love is a damn good album, one that blends more than a handful of current and classic influences and in a lot of ways echoes Sinkane’s equally as inventive debut Mars. Really, Mean Love feels like a logical progression for Ahmed Gallab, in that Mars was at times a bit of a debut, and Mean Love is certainly not. It is a finely crafted piece, compiled lovingly by an artist who is not revolutionary, but still extremely talented at what he does. A session musician previously for Eleanor Friedberger, Caribou, Of Montreal, Born Ruffians, and Yeasayer, Sinkane’s music comes off as inherently of the studio, yet feels organic enough that it would translate exquisitely to the stage. There’s an element of 70’s soul to his music. Not so much Motown, more a Stax gruff and gritty grandeur, that leaves most of his music sounding of-the-moment and distinctly heartfelt. Even if it is occasionally a bit too finely tuned.

One of Sinkane’s finest attributes has been his ability to effortlessly bounce between musical aesthetics, balancing tinges of soul music with freak folk, electro-pop and country music. And sure, genre tags are genre tags, but it’s a little more than impressive on songs like “New Name” where Gallab sounds like a picture perfect take on Yeasayer collaborating with TV On The Radio. Or take “Moonstruck”, which sounds a mix of bossanova and surf rock to excellent ends and the album’s highlight as far as Sinkane’s vocal performance is concerned. Throughout Mean Love Gallab shines, he’s a unique and special voice, I just wish he were a bit more unpredictable with it.

Mean Love feels a bit formulaic at times, and that isn’t so much attributed to its lack of quality as much as it’s pitch perfect mix. Sure, for the most part, it’s impressive how well Sinkane and his production team mold together to give Mean Love such a homogenous feel, even as the songwriting reach isn’t singular. Mean Love is all over the place, and really, this benefits the record. Mix-wise, a lot of this album is too clean – which hampers an album that thematically is trying to come off neck-deep in the experimental. Surprising somewhat for a DFA release, but if you look at previous standout releases from the label that diverge from the electro-punk of LCD or The Juan Maclean — like say, Free Energy’s debut — the pristine work behind the boards granted the record its excellence for the most part. I don’t think this formula deviates for Mean Love. It’s just Stuck On Nothing was steeped in punky dirtiness; Mean Love, while Stax-esque, is elegantly mixed a la Quincy Jones and though impressive, this doesn’t fit the album I feel.

Terrible? Hardly, Mean Love is a fucking good album from an artist worth keeping your ears locked into. If nothing else, Sinkane has a special voice, and I feel like he’ll find a way to harness it, eventually flooring us all consistently. For now though, we can sit back and enjoy Mean Love similarly to how his debut Mars elicited enjoyment: just kick back, press play, and let your worries melt away.

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