Active Child You Are All I See
You Are All I See is the debut album from Active Child, the band that Los Angeles singer-songwriter Pat Grossi has steadily built around his sweeping harp, pining falsetto, and shuddering beats. A series of small-budget, limited-edition EPs, singles and cassettes preceded this Vagrant Records debut, including last year’s “She Was a Vision” 7-inch and its six-song follow-up, Curtis Lane. Those releases were remarkably assured and stylistically developed, with Grossi’s pedigree—a former choirboy whose father was an executive at Priority Records—reflected in beautifully booming pop songs. With Grossi’s voice refracted by cathedral-ceiling reverb and his rhythms applying hip-hop intensity to a new-wave template, those very first Active Child releases felt like an aggregate introduction to a confident new vocalist, writer, and arranger.
It’s a shame, then, that You Are All I See is so badly pocked by stylistic indecision and inarticulate eclecticism. Grossi handles different ideas with uncertain hands: “Way Too Fast” is the worst song James Blake forgot to put on his own sterling debut, while just about everything on Bon Iver puts “High Priestess” to shame. At least Grossi’s collaboration with fellow crooner Tom Krell of How to Dress Well on “Playing House” offers a winning sex-for-love shudder, and closer “Johnny Belinda” glows with the perfect mix of grandeur and immediacy that first gave Grossi an audience. It ends a disappointing album on a positive note, and hopefully points to a return to his early promise the next time around.