By Rina Weaver
Steve Lacy’s debut album consists of only 13 minutes of music, but that’s enough time for him to create a strong first impression. The young producer puts forth a staggering amount of musical ideas throughout the course of the six tracks that glimmer with classic Southern California funk and soul. The fact that most of Steve Lacy’s Demo was recorded on an iPhone, makes it all the more extraordinary.
Lacy refers to Demo as a song series rather than an album or EP, a modesty belied by his praise for the songs, which he describes as “perfect.” Lacy’s music is strikingly mature, full of breadth and depth, as if he were supported by a whole band rather than just himself. Drums, adventurous bass, a wobbling synth, and exquisite falsetto harmonies lead into the lone verse of the first song, “Looks.” All of those layers serve a song that, among other things, is a condemnation of superficiality. “What if I got with you and turned out to be a total dick,” Lacy warns, “Would you be happy ’bout that?” The song is far too short—less than two minutes.
“Dark Red” is the clear standout, as it is the only song in which each element is given just enough time to breathe. The swirling melodies on the chorus float atop the beat as a melodic counterpoint, an effect Lacy says was inspired by Dirty Projectors, a band led by David Longstreth. And the song’s aching nature, which is matched by the Motown harmonies that fill out the song’s back half, fits the song’s premise, a plea aimed at a partner who is starting to pull away.
Demo, despite its briefness, is evocative of another promising debut from more than 15 years ago. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo had already earned a name for themselves as producers with the Neptunes, but their first album in the band NERD, “In Search Of…,” was more powerful and unusual than anything they had done before. “In Search Of…” established Pharrell as a star who could act in front of the camera, not simply behind it. Steve Lacy’s Demo is reminiscent of the album in terms of personality and musical talent. The record can’t be described as anything more than an exceptionally excellent appetizer, given that it’s only 13 minutes long. However, it’s difficult to envision a listener who isn’t eager for the following course.