Whether it was discomfort with the genre tag applied to him or just creative restlessness, Memory Tapes—a.k.a. Dayve Hawk—has gone the way of Toro Y Moi and shelved the “chillwave” touches in favor of a punchier pop attack for his sophomore album. On Player Piano, Hawk has edged even farther from his more danceable guises—the hazy Memory Cassette and the disco-fied Weird Tapes—into lush, scatterbrained bedroom pop that’s catchy, though confounding.
Hawk’s own description of the album as a collection of “keyboard-based psychedelic girl-group songs” isn’t really borne out by the music itself, except for the Motown-by-way-of-MIDI coda to “Today Is Our Life.” Instead, there’s the jaunty, oddball march of “Yes I Know,” and the creaky organ and queasy vocal of “Worries.” Whatever the weaknesses of any individual song, though, Hawk tends to wrap them up in high style, with intriguing snatches of harpsichord or big blocks of M83-style synth, as he does on “Trance Sisters” and “Fell Thru Ice II.”
The music-box intro and outro seem designed to give Player Piano a cohesiveness that the songs themselves often lack. “Wait In The Dark” threads a friendly synth line through what would otherwise be a fairly disjointed romp, and “Today Is Our Life” is saved from utter dissolution by its centerpiece: a vigorous guitar solo that’s the polar opposite of Seek Magic’s lethargic New Order riffs. There’s a great follow-up to that album swirling somewhere inside Player Piano’s grab-bag of ideas; it’s just difficult to make out.