Future Elevators

Future Elevators

Communicating Vessels, 2016


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


This debut solo release by Future Elevators (pseudonym of musician Michael Shackleford) could be looked at almost as a mixtape of sorts. It certainly has the enthusiasm of someone who would want to create a mixtape (or playlist or any other variation of this concept) to show off their eclectic taste in music. In a recent interview talking about the diversity of music on this disc, this Birmingham, AL-based artist said, “The last thing I wanted was to be confined to one specific genre.” Shackleford nearly becomes different acts altogether as he shifts genres from one song to another, and he does so with an utmost chameleon-like ease.

The album opener “Rome On A Saturday” is a breezy ‘60s psychedelia-influenced dreampop track. “Modern World,” the most accessible cut on this album, is also its only full-on dance number. “Loosing Sleep” is a dreamy rock song with a folksy twang. “Alabama Song” is all hushed and pastoral with Shackleford singing wispily. “Machine Maker” is a quirky folk-pop song, with a slight playful edge that is not found in any of the other songs. On the other hand, “Narcosis” is meditative and pensive, and sounds like it is about to explode. And it does so, at a little over a minute before its end, featuring heavy atmospheric guitars and a mood of total emancipation.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On an album where Shackleford tries to be different on every song, the tracks “Just Another Day” and “It Is What It Is” are where he transforms his singing persona the most. “Just Another Day” is an alt-country track where Shackleford sings in Rufus Wainwright’s crooning style, and it sounds very different from the rest of the album. Similarly, inspired by another personality, “It Is What It Is” sounds like Shackledord’s tribute to John Lennon, in which both the singing and the musical style unmistakably invoke this late musical legend.

In total opposition with the overall softness of the record, “Everything Everywhere” is a muscular song, driven by heavy drumming and guitars. At just about three minutes long, this song is pretty short to begin with. But Shackleford throws a curveball at approximately 30 seconds before the end of the song, transforming it into a totally random instrumental with noisy guitars and drums that are muffled; it resembles the untitled instrumentals on the Oasis album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Even as Shackleford goes through different personas from song to song, the album doesn’t really reflect the ambitiousness behind it. While Shackleford keeps on “transforming,” the songs themselves are simple, likeable, and catchy. As a result, the album as a whole flows quite effortlessly from one song to another without the bitter aftertastes of jarring stylistic changes.

The only exception to this, however, is the album’s concluding track. Adding yet another musical style into the mix, the ten-minute long “Aphrodite” is a surreal droning instrumental that is similar to the (much shorter) hidden track following “Motion Picture Soundtrack” on Radiohead’s Kid A. “Aphrodite” surely belongs on an album like Kid A, but not on this album that contains mostly short, three minute shiny pop songs.

But maybe a number like “Aphrodite” is absolutely needed here after all, because it reminds the listener of the self-indulgence of this disc: a kind of self-indulgence that is nevertheless expressed with utmost “indie musician” humbleness, a kind of self-indulgence that is expressed just right.

Rating: B

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© 2016 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Communicating Vessels, and is used for informational purposes only.