Louisville’s Jamey See Tai is not a newcomer to the music world. The one time principal songwriter for post-rock instrumentalists The Photographic has made his presence felt in other areas through film scores, remixes for an array of artists like Goldroom, Jim James, Daughter, and Lane 8, as well as recording and releasing his own original music. His new single “Neon Dream” is not an instrumental in the tradition of The Photographic but, instead, features vocals and lyrics working in harmony with its musical arrangement. It is released under the name “See Tai” and will make a deep impression on admirers of electronic pop and any willing to open their minds to new forms. It never overextends itself – See Tai shows his great instincts for songcraft with its concise length.
He manages, however, to pack a virtual world of sound and imagery into its brief length and not a single aspect receives short shrift. Many songs in this vein are guilty of treating the lyrical content like an afterthought, but not See Tai. The words for “Neon Dream”, as its title implies, has an almost painter-like sensibility. He mixes imagery with outright statement while nevertheless keeping the track accessible for any possible listeners. He has a touch of the poet in his songwriting, but lacks any of the heavy-handed pretenses we often hear from songwriters trying to work in that style. It’s a blessing for listeners that such things are absent.
His singing does an excellent job bringing those words to life. Few singers sound like See Tai, but fewer listeners will experience any significant difficulty adapting to his style. The biggest factor influencing how listeners will react to the track is how completely See Tai invests himself in conveying the lyrical content. It is never overwrought or descends into melodrama, but he has an sly understated ability to make each line mean something thanks to his emotive talents as a vocalist. Moreover, he possesses the ability to shape his voice to the needs of the musical arrangement and work in concert with its strengths.
The musical arrangement shares the same sly understated approach we hear with the vocals. It weaves electronic instruments with straight forward guitar in an expert way. The rhythm section and synthesizer color filling the track links up in an effective way with the aforementioned guitar and, despite the popular reputation it has for a cold emotionless sound, exudes warmth throughout the entirety of the song. It is the same warmth we hear from See Tai’s vocals. There is an almost cinematic touch to the songwriting, but it is never pronounced.
“Neon Dream” has a lot to recommend it. See Tai is a polished songwriter able to convey much through his word, but likewise has an underrated vocal talent capable of bringing a solid lyric to life without much effort. This single has a natural sound – it plays like See Tai entered the recording studio knowing what he wanted to accomplish and does so with finesse and emotional weight. It is one of the better singles you’ll hear in 2019.
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