R. Stevie Moore Lo-Fi High Fives... A Kind Of Best Of...(O Genesis) Buy it from Insound
R. Stevie Moore is one of the most fascinating, productive musicians of the DIY music scene. While most would struggle to eke out a minor pop tune onto a four-track Tascam unit over a week’s time, fully realized compositions seem to ooze out of Moore’s every pore and solidify into vinyl discs on the ground below him. This intense output has culminated into a discography that exceeds 400 albums over a 40 year career span. So naturally, Moore’s catalog is a bit more difficult to access than most. However, there is a light at the end of the fuzzy, tape-hissing tunnel folks; Moore has an abundance of “Greatest Hits” records! The most recent of which, Lo-Fi High Fives, serves as a brilliant snapshot of both his celebrated backlog and his collaborative contemporary material.
The album’s starter, Pop Music, is a fantastic piece of power pop fit for a Beatles solo record. Its start-stop style keeps the composition shifting as it is peppered with layers of acoustic guitars, bombastic horns, and flamboyant piano strides. An ethereal slide guitar floats its way around the track, occasionally making an appearance in the introduction and letting out a final gasp in the songs’ final seconds. Moore’s vocal approach on this cut ranges from a giddy falsetto to his signature spoken word narration. Why Should I Love You? is another brilliant inclusion of Moore-brand pop. The song’s depressing lyrics about an equally depressed and newly dumped Moore are a perfect contrast to the overly peppy drum beat and upbeat chord progression. Moore’s feelings of angst and melancholia translate well through this song, ultimately leaving the listener just as dizzy and stir-crazy.
Lo-Fi High Fives seems to pay close attention to Moore’s most recent collaborative history—these recordings are slicker and more polished than most of his signature basement recordings. However, they are just as affecting as even his most noisy tape recordings. Sentimental Ties and Dutch Me are both fantastic collaborative efforts. Sentimental Ties is a great fuzz-rock tune that features fellow obscure songwriter, Lane Steinberg on vocals. His harmonious vocals are definitely a notable contrast to the song's distorted dissonant chord structure.
Dutch Me is probably the more popular of the two, featuring Ariel Pink on vocals. The track has a mellow electro-pop quality that isn’t necessarily similar to anything either artist has put out on their own. I Go into Your Mind is probably one of the best tracks collected onto this release. The arrangement features a mash-up of spacey synthesizers, arpeggiated harp flourishes, and a break beat reminiscent of The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows. Yukio Yung (who collaborated with Moore on Conscientious Objector) delivers a hypnotic vocal that hits somewhere between the sublime and the surreal.
While Lo-Fi High Fives does seem to lend itself to Moore’s recent collaborations, it is definitely not deprived of Moore’s early Lo-Fi experiments. Here Comes Summer Again is a perfect example of Moore’s celebrated tape-hissing pop. The track itself billows over with a thick layer of Beach Boys-style harmonies accompanied by a dense wall of organs, whistles, noise-makers, and assorted percussion. However, by far the most lo-fi track on this album is the acoustic pop ode to obscurity, The Winner.
The track distorts and hisses as Moore’s guitar strums become more and more intense, slowly overloading the microphone and causing it to feedback. A wandering synthesizer line serves as a lonely companion for the song’s vocals, which seem to crack with a painfully sincere quality. From a struggling artist’s perspective, this is probably one of Moore’s most lyrically relatable songs. His falsetto voice expresses a sense of well-meaning aspiration to be something better than an obscure songwriter recording in his musical microcosm of a bedroom.
It’s honestly very easy to hate most “best of” compilations simply for what they are—an often misguided entry point into an artist’s entire catalog. The idea that you can quantify an artist’s an entire career into a concise release is insulting to say the least, and mostly leads to poor interpretations of their material. However, Lo-Fi High Fives is quite an exception to this. Like Moore’s entire career, it doesn’t seem to seek anyone’s approval nor lend itself to accessibility, yet it eagerly awaits active exploration. What we have here is a compilation that offers a thorough understanding of where Moore has been throughout the years and insight as to where he may roam in the future.15 August, 2012 - 06:03 — Andrew Ciraulo