If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll spell it out- I adore chiptune that ignores boundaries, fusing styles and instruments from anywhere and everywhere in order to produce a creative and entertaining sound. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that this week’s artist, Daniel McLay’s one-man J. Arthur Keenes Band does just this on Computer Savvy, bringing his Gameboy together with various instruments and genres to create a stupendous indie chip-pop album.
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Within Computer Savvy, the tone and style are varied enough that it’s difficult to make blanket statements about the musical output of The J. Arthur Keenes Band, yet what remains consistent is a fantastic taste for creative chip, with or without (and the presence of a multitude of interesting people found within Daniel McLay’s past, going by the lyrical content of its songs).
Beginning with “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down,” the album leads in with a low electric tone, layering on a ukulele and acoustic guitar before breaking into a dreamlike state with cascading chip and McLay’s methodically placed vocals. With its simple yet effective instrumentation and strong lyrics, it quickly grabs listeners’ attentions, leading them along into “Cluck”, a faster-paced instrumental piece. At first comparable to Anamanaguchi with a pleasing blend of electric guitar and chip but running through several other styles of pacing within its length, it’s a short but sweet listen before the journey found within “Water2 (Wetter).” Returning to the reflective vocals of “The Bus”, it begins with a similar blend of high-energy beat-driven pop, mutating and moving through several other styles, including a distinctly reggae-influenced movement. My final highlight, “Foe Paw,” the sixth track on the album (and my favorite), is one of the heavier songs contained within, with a heavy focus on a dense chip melody backed by electric guitar and accompanied by intense vocals reflecting upon a dismal past, with prayer for a change of fortune in the future.