Canadian electros and dance-funk DJs Shout Out Out Out Out stormed into the music world with their first album, Not Saying / Just Saying back in 2006. After positive reviews and a Juno Award nomination, they packed up and toured through North America. It was another three years before they hit their sophomoric stride with Reintegration Time. The band again received generally positive reviews, and the title track even crept into BioWare’s gaming space epic, Mass Effect 3 (it’s one of the songs you select as background music in Shepard’s cabin).
As the band swings back into the music scene with their third studio effort, almost another three years later, the horizon looks a little different. Electronica has begun to seep into the most unexpected of places; even current pop music has begun to feel the beats and bumps of the genre’s funky reach. But it’s hard to say that the band came fully prepared to join this brave new world, though their album is a brave attempt in itself.
Spanish Moss and Total Loss draws you in with its energy. Its tunes are cute and quirky, bubbling up with a electronic ferocity that makes you want to move. Tracks like “This Isn’t Helping” bump and bounce along in an infinite loop of funk, while heavily autotuned vocals move the music forward.
Much of the album has a tropical, “on vacation” feel to it. Its good mood and cheery disposition are catching, a strange notion considering the Total Loss. But the drums on “Spanish Moss” aren’t mournful or defeating; they’re invigorating. They set the track apart from many of the album’s other songs, which are heavy on electronic influences. Songs like “Never The Same Way Twice” are pure ‘80s funk, combining a baseline reminiscent of Lipps Inc.’s “Funky Town” with low, manipulated vocals. “How Do I Maintain Part 3” shares the same throwback persona; it maintains its dance-inspiring beats in total retro-style.
There’s a definite charm in the album’s perky, quirky little tunes and retromania, but Spanish Moss and Total Loss is still lacking the power of a single, standout hit. Songs have a way of melting into each other by feeding off of similar elements; overall, the album feels like a step backward from their previous work. Autotuned music can be interesting and engrossing—when used in moderation. Unfortunately, the entire album relies heavily on synthed words, and eventually you’ll start to crave real vocals. In this way, Spanish Moss lacks the defining voice it needs to crawl up and out of the deeply layered dive that is electronica. What first captures the ear with vigor quickly collapses into a mess of electro with repeated visits. One listen is all the time you’ll need to spend with Spanish Moss to realize it’s almost a total loss.