Vocals are the crux of Ology, the gorgeous debut album from Gallant. It’s a wonderful piece of contemporary retro infused R&B that meanders through a valley of heartbreaks and personal struggles. You may remember, probably not, that his single ‘Weight In Gold’, hit number two on my top ten songs of 2015. The Louis Futon remix makes the song sound cooler, a feat I didn’t think possible. Like that song, Ology sounds like it’s been produced by the hippest of underground producers and whether that label applies to the mysterious STiNT remains unconfirmed.
NYC loft apartment vibes are the theme throughout. 80s & 90s R&B beats sprinkled delicately throughout, on the likes of the original ‘Weight in Gold’ and the stunning ‘Talking to Myself’ which erupts into a haunting chorus backed by a rough electronic riff as Gallant shares his loneliness, singing ‘I’ve been talking to ghosts lately’. His vocals soar, from soulful lows to exhilarating highs. Album highlight ‘Bourbon’ showcases this best. Dripping in retro charm, this is a seductive piece of heartbreak R&B that defies you not to snap your fingers and sway your hips, “Cos I loved in cold blood and got used to it/Angles say trust the detox/But I’m shaking and I need it like bourbon in my coffee cup”.
For the most part, Ology is a mid-down tempo opus. It rests heavily on the smooth curve of its arrangements, not straying far at any point. The tempo does lift on ‘Episode’, a heady number that teeters on the edge of funk-pop but never slips over. There are no shortage of ballads here either, the most notable is Jhené Aoki collaboration ‘Skipping Stones’, which sees Gallant’s vocals hit a falsetto peak for the entire chorus, dropping into a soulful turn on the first verse.
There are moments where the poetic lyricism gets lost in the sumptuous production and diction suffers. ‘Percogesic’ is almost too cool for its own good with its Thievery Corporation echoes, haunting vocal riffs and sultry chorus. I didn’t even know what the song title meant at first (call me uneducated) but it turns out it’s a painkiller, so now it makes a lot more sense. Gallant sings about realising a lover is too much for him to handle, “As the percogesic is tapering off/And the fumes surrounded/I knew I’d bit off more than I can chew”. ‘Miyazaki’ further heightens the Williamsburg loft atmosphere to a point where it sounds so good that it doesn’t matter what’s actually being sung. This poses a problem though, that the album can at times be so well produced, so sonically stimulating, that the messages within the songs are lost and even after repeated plays there are songs I couldn’t explain to you.
Gallant is a great, emerging talent. His vocals are faultless, note perfect throughout his collection and more emotive than the majority of his musical peers. It’s refreshing to discover a male artist bringing this type of romanticism back into R&B, keeping it coo, leaving the cheese at the door and not compromising their authenticity.