Photographers: Sean Nicholas Savage; Moritz Freudenberg.
In line with the smooth R&B-crooned, arty synth pop of 2013's Other Life and 2014's Bermuda Waterfall much more so than his earlier lo-fi takes on brighter '50s and '60s (and ever early-'80s) pop, and with a title that's a clear reference to Other Life, 2015's Other Death may or may not mark the end of a slinky trilogy in Sean Nicholas Savage's catalog. The album opens with a wistful piano instrumental titled "Death" before plunging into funky, smarmy R&B with "Propaganda" ("I'm a freak, yeah/Wild and free/Propaganda can't have me"). Exaggerated, overly sincere groans and yelps come off a lot like Jemaine Clement delivering a Flight of the Conchords tune, but Savage is nearly always performing with a little wink and a little weirdness, so that's not to undermine intention. Neither should we be afraid to smile at the whispered "Look at you/Miracles happen every day" in "Casablanca," the poetry-slam word association in "Why I Love U," or the Bee Gees-inflected "Dont B Sad." Soundwise, in addition to Savage's Green Gartside-like vocal delivery, the pingy, early-'80s keyboards and syncopated basslines of new wave appear throughout the record, but especially on the drum machine-teeming "Promises." Though Other Death features collaborators such as Agor of labelmates Blue Hawaii and Errhead of Doldrums, the album really feels like the work of a sole lonely fellow in an after-hours corner of his bedroom, with the exception of the relatively upbeat but still yearning "1 More Chance" with Nite Jewel co-writing and joining him on vocals. The late-night intimacy hits a crescendo on "Romeo" ("Maybe I would lose my mind without you"), which quotes Shakespeare and reaches peak falsetto. An uptempo (for him) affair that may belie its title, Other Death delivers a consistently wacky coveter of hearts with sensuality and panache to spare. ~ Marcy Donelson