Getting Reacquainted with Saint Motel and New Album ‘Voyeur’

Last I heard Saint Motel, the L.A. quartet had captivated me with the weird and wondrous “Dear Dictator”, reaching #5 on my chart mainly through the spiffy Sam Sparro remix, which was good enough reason to make a second video for the song.  Both videos for “Dear Dictator” are enjoyable in their outlandishness.  The band consists of A/J Jackson (vocals, keyboards, guitars), asharp (guitars, vocals), Dak (bass), and Greg Erwin (drums).

I didn’t get a chance to see the band when they played in Toronto in 2010, but that changed on Monday when they played to a small crowd at the Drake Hotel.  What was particularly noteworthy about this performance was that they probably would have given the same tight performance if they had played to a much larger audience.  I had already been listening to their new album Voyeur online, and the live show allowed the songs to sparkle and their personality to show better than on record.

Voyeur doesn’t strike me as overly unique, but it does draw you in with many influences, which generate a Duran Duran meets Foster The People via grunge kind of overall sound, with some reverence to pop/rock of the 60’s too – the band even performed a fine and unexpected cover of Brenton Wood’s 1967 hit “Gimme Little Sign” in concert.  Five singles from the album have already surfaced on iTunes, and these form the core of Voyeur.  The melodies create rich, layered tunes, with lyrics that take second place until you get to know Saint Motel’s sense of humour and perspective.

There are lots of highlights.  “Puzzle Pieces” (with its interesting video below shot from singer A/J’s point of view and directed by him) swings along with its keyboard lead. “Benny Goodman” takes a clarinet sample in tribute to the title musician but spins off into enjoyably wild directions. “1997” is loaded lyrically and musically with a well-structured mix of guitar, keyboards, and horns.  “Honest Feedback” takes pleasure in receiving something that’s often difficult for people set to a rather carefree melody.  “Balsa Wood Bones” is probably the most serious song, obviously about a gutting breakup that shows that these guys don’t always write fun songs.  And there’s “Daydream/Wetdream/Nightmare”, their mini rock opera which goes places that other attempts have yet to go.

Overall, Saint Motel offer much more than meets the eye and ear.  These guys are definitely out to have a good time, but part of having that good time is going for a great ride.  Voyeur makes for a most intriguing soundtrack to that ride.  A video for “1997” is due imminently; in the meantime, watch “Puzzle Pieces” and listen to “Benny Goodman” below.

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] “Benny Goodman” by L.A.’s Saint Motel, currently touring their album Voyeur, which I wrote about recently.  Below is a video of the band jazzing up the song and swinging along in a studio performance. […]

  2. […] by singer A/J Jackson, this time the most infectious and winning song from their album Voyeur, which I wrote about this summer after checking out the band in concert.  The video is equally compelling, with some great moves […]

  3. […] Motel have continued with a big, bold and brassy sound on their new single “My Type”.  Their debut album of last year, Voyeur, incorporated a diverse blend of styles, but heavily influenced by jazz and/or big bands in songs […]


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