The Sharp Things: EverybodyEverybody

Music Reviews
The Sharp Things: EverybodyEverybody

For New York City’s the Sharp Things, EverybodyEverybody represents the completion of a quadrilogy of releases, and the wringing of some 40-plus songs penned by singer/songwriter Perry Serpa. The sonic territory traveled in those three years and four albums has forged a wide path that gets a final punctuation on their latest LP.

It’s no secret that The Sharp Things have a tendency toward the irreverent, as was heard during the ‘70s glam-punk of “The Libertine” on 2014’s Adventurer’s Inn. Things don’t get quite that over-the-top on EverybodyEverybody, but Serpa and company dabble plenty in a grab-bag of genres. In terms of a seamless transition between the third and fourth albums of their storied four-parter, EverybodyEverybody comes off as the more reflective, less rebellious installment. Most finales are that way. That doesn’t change the fact that whatever aural costume The Sharp Things choose to don somehow comes out sounding unlike anything else you’re listening to, unless you’re listening to all of it at the same exact time.

EverybodyEverybody is essentially one long, uninterrupted song cycle, interspersed with sound collages and buffering squalls between tracks to create an uninterrupted experience. “Full Deep Breaths” introduces the record, an audio sample awash in hypnotics that quickly gives way to a drum-machine beat and a warbling melody on “Something Big.” Serpa sings, “Can I trust in you to do the right thing?” with the Sharp Things cloaked in a No Wave patina, reminiscent of the fussy pop of Future Islands, waiting out the crescendos of lilting synths and volume swells in instrumentation as the song progresses.

Serpa’s voice is a husky baritone that lunges for higher pitches, not unlike Elbow’s Guy Garvey, and ambitious ranges that communicate real feelings. To wit, lush harmonizing propels the Lennon-esque “Shine Shine Shine,” a tune that fits so superbly into Serpa’s songwriting wheelhouse that it’s a wonder he’s able to jump in and out of it so easily. The song ends with the sounds of gently falling rain and an emerging acoustic guitar, ushering a blossoming melancholy for the moody “There’s Been No One Since You.” That undercurrent of gloom is somehow always part of the Sharp Things’ sound, even when it’s not explicitly made to be. It’s a liquid ballad, richly textured, with Serpa’s voice aching as it should for the protagonist’s despair.

The veil lifts ever so on the audio patchwork sample of “High October,” a kind of creepy party conversation mishmash that bleeds into the dreamy, tongue-in-cheek “Family Day at the Lake.” Here, a hilariously satirical account of the perception of harmless family fun is threatened by, as Serpa sings, “White trash and motorboats/tight Speed-o overload/spoiled children of the West/flying on crystal meth.” The song is melancholy but light, like a John Grant sonata, tastefully orchestral and with an emotive sense of catharsis when Serpa counters the comedy with, “I know I’ve sinned/But you were the smile on a smileless face/you were the life in a life erased.”

EverybodyEverybody ends on a whimsical note with the vibrant “The Libertine Ciel Rouge,” a track that contorts itself in a funhouse mirror of sounds—walking bass, ramshackling percussion, unwieldy flutes and a splashy nightmare-circus bent. It’s a bit of a bizarre ending to the project, but again, the Sharp Things have a tendency to embrace the tangential. In doing so, they’ve come a long way toward separating themselves from the proverbial pop herd.

Disclosure: Perry Serpa is also a music publicist who has worked with Paste on several stories over the years.

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