The Time In Between by the Seedy Players offers a fresh take on. . . well, popular music. While I could put this group into a specific genre like indie jazz-pop, chamber-pop, experimental contemporary-concert-pop or whatever, the fact is that this group is simply making music that wasn’t meant to be put into an easily classifiable box. To do so would distort the listener’s ability to actually hear the music for what it is.
Zappa said it best: “Talking about music is like fishing about architecture.” If you really want to understand the music, take some time and give this record a listen without the constructs of my (or anyone else’s) help or opinion.
The narratives of songwriter Dan Styslinger are backed with ornate jazz and contemporary orchestral arrangements that make use of strings, synths, horns, keys and more. This puts it head and shoulders (from a technical standpoint) above most of the stuff percolating in garages, basements and overpriced rehearsal spaces across the country.
Styslinger started the group, originally called the Old Soles and the Seedy Players back in 2015—which is a mouthful and doesn’t really fit on most concert fliers–so they opted to cut off the first half of the name for this latest release. From a young age, Styslinger was able to wrap his head around complex melodies that are generally articulated in jazz music.
While “Thinking of Penelope” takes the jazz-funk influences of keyboardist-composers like Herbie Hancock, the soft vocal melody seems to take some of its inclination towards complex tonality from Brian Wilson, combined with the timbre and fragility of Elliott Smith or Thom York. The group’s execution on all of these tunes is immaculate.
“Speak Easy” feels like an epic pop song from the ’60s–not unlike when the Beatles tried to collaborate with Phil Spector. Hopefully, no handguns were used in the production of this record.
“Spooky Action” takes a more avant-garde approach. The impressive orchestral arrangement feels like Frank Zappa’s Yellow Shark if it were combined with some of the experimental comical tropes of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus. The vocal sections center the general weirdness of the arrangement, and may even take some influence from the film music of Danny Elfman. That is, this musical section is cinematic and eerie while also adhering to the modern palette of film and theater music, which has roots in the minimalist contemporary classical music of the last hundred years.
Kudos to Styslinger and the Seedy Players for making an album that is musically challenging and truly unique. When you listen to something and don’t immediately reduce it to a series of comparisons, you know the musician is doing something innovative. Isn’t that what music is about anyway?