I love some good funk. Not the smell; the music. The British soul singer revival has been something I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, though the majority of it seems too often a bit overproduced. It was too smooth for real soul music. Lucky me, I saw the name of this three-piece from Portland who go by Age Sex Occupation and just had to have a listen.
In its entirety, This Side of the Fence is a blend of unique funk and soul, with hints of jazz and classical (the piano solo in “Another World), and even a little crunchy indie rock. Lead vocalist Daniel Weiskopf’s voice is smooth as slate, and the cadence of the lyrics is musical by itself. When blended with the combo of guitar, keyboard, bass and drums (from Justin Keeth and Joey McAlister, respectively), each song becomes a well-crafted piece of music that’s something pretty unique. What’s most notable about Weiskopf’s singing is that he’s perfectly comfortable with his own voice — he’s not mimicking anyone else. Rather, he meets the level of aggressiveness he needs at each point in every song like a soul singer much older, never under — or over — doing it.
Many of the songs on This Side are built on hooks and beats that would stand strong on their own. Opening track “Dirt Isn’t Dirty” is perhaps the most traditional funk, with guitar hooks, accenting horns and backing vocals. “Hide and Seek” is a hard stomping romp through dark urban streets. The closer, “Lullaby,” is a bright yet haunting tune that brings the album to a nice, slow end.
It’s not all hard-fought soul, though. There are brighter and lighter tunes like “Volcano,” whose guitar riff sounds something out of a good John Mayer song (that’s a compliment, I swear). “The Day I Ignored Street Signs” is a fun and clean march, reminiscent of early Arctic Monkeys. “Volcano” is upbeat, crisp and just rough-around-the-edges enough to sound like it be a blast to see live.
This Side of the Fence is a highly listenable album that I thoroughly enjoy. It’s haunting and urban, and sounds like the band just has fun when they play. That might be what shines through most here. It’s just fun.
(I made it through the whole review without making a joke about their name. Good for me.)