It’s easy to compare Vincent Minor to Ben Folds. There are the piano-driven songs, layered with quirky observations juxtaposed with somber ruminations. Minor’s vocals, especially on the song “Fanfare,” even hit some of the same notes and aura as Ben’s. The press release also mentions his Rufus Wainwright-like quality and there’s some of that on the way Minor approaches each song.
Born in the Wrong Era is Minor’s debut EP (to be followed by a full album in the fall). It’s brimming with sharp lyrics delivered with smooth vocals. The music is rarely evocative, but it’s always atmospheric. Minor’s reference to his era may relate to some smoky cabaret, which his music suggests, or a dank Prohibition-era club, or an airport lounge in a Rust Belt town circa 1976.
But I think it probably means he makes interesting music that in another era might have been played on the radio, garner a request or two, or get more than one rotation than on a community college station in Duluth.
The proof is in the songs themselves. There are only five, but each one counts. Well one barely counts, but it doesn’t completely fail either. The songs here follow a similar pattern, but are each distinctive and decisive.
The opener “Fanfare” is a well-crafted song, bouncing along with light percussion. It’s a pastiche of 70’s piano-driven pop and a 1920’s vaudeville tune. Minor’s voice takes center stage in the production, delivering intriguing lyrics. He tips his hat in the lyrics to the "quizzical crowd/Watch the magic come out of a fat man’s mouth/His pitter-patter on the legs of laughter/Keeps on kicking you." It’s easily the best song on the collection. Fresh, dynamic, and catchy, it took me all of two listens to get into this one. It’s a nicely layered song with little musical nuances, and turns of phrase that allows for a gradual move into the fold (no pun intended).
The second song, “Late Night Show” has a wonderful piano line that carries the sharp verses into a chorus that The New Pornographers would be envious of. The track “Friday the Thirteenth” starts off with a chord progression similar to “New York New York,” but it’s soon apparent this is not any homage to Frank Sinatra.
The title track, “Born in the Wrong Era", is a caged little animal. It’s slow, meandering style, gels up just enough energy, and then, well then nothing. It’s too droll for its own good. Belle and Sebastian are about the only group that can make that speed work. Minor tries. He almost succeeds.
It’s easy going, and it’s hook-laden. What I don’t know is if it will last. Will Minor get wispier, too quirky, or will he fall off the wagon entirely? So far it’s been growing steadily with each listen, but momentum is an easy thing to let slip through your fingers. Too many indie artists desperate to prove how “alt” they are, purposely push away the hooks and melodies, in the hope of getting more critical respect. It’s far more satisfying to take baby steps towards weirdness, while keeping the hooks coming.