While most artists dislike having their music categorized, Marcus Singletary has gone so far as to make an album that is for all intents and purposes impossible to label. Listening to his latest full length “Defiance Science” is a bizarre experience, with each consecutive song adding a new style to the melting pot. The overall sound is one I would describe as psychedelic jazz-rock, with forays into prog, electronica, reggae, rockabilly… you name it; it’s on there somewhere.
There are two possible pitfalls for this type of album, the first being a lack of consistency. With so many different styles converging it can be difficult to maintain a single sound, an umbrella under which to improvise and experiment. This I feel was achieved quite well here. Despite the fact that from one track to the next Singletary may be dabbling in two entirely different genres, while branching out into yet more, there is a sound that unifies the whole affair. From the space-funk of “Party Like A Star” to the sci-fi-influenced classic rock/reggae (complete with theremin soloing) of “Shangri-Rock”, you are always aware it’s the same artist and it all fits into some loose musical theme.
The second possible stumbling block is the purpose of the album getting lost in the mix. With so much going on musically and a lot of effort being put into consistency between tracks, it can become easy to wind up with a group of songs that vaguely fit together, but fail to form a coherent beginning, middle and end. Unfortunately this, I felt, was where the album failed. Throughout listening to it I was always focused on each individual track, the diversity of instruments and influences, and on Singletary’s unwavering soul-style vocal. On the penultimate track, “Young Lady of Royalty”, I did get the sense of the album winding down and coming to a close. The Bowie-influenced slow-burner seemed like an attempt at pulling the whole thing together. However, the closer “Tomorrow No”, a fast-paced rockabilly effort, seemed like it would have fit better nearer the beginning, and solidified for me the sense of this collection as having too much going on musically to have a discernible story.
Marcus Singletary displays excellent musicianship on this album, and a very fresh approach to songwriting. By no means background music, it is more the sort that will require multiple listens and your full attention to really appreciate it. Despite this, I didn’t feel the album was as rewarding as it could have been. Bizarre, futuristic and trippy, it takes you on a surreal rocket trip through space and time, before abruptly dropping you back to Earth wondering “Is that it?”