One can hardly blame Dent May for parting ways with his magnificent ukulele. Madison Avenue and Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” have essentially ruined the instrument for at least a generation, its gentle quirky sound now synonymous with energy-efficient washer-dryers and the worst Top 40 pop song of the last couple years. Yet May, even back as a tuxedo-clad string plucker on The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele, had a charming songwriting style that transcended his arrangements. Coupled with richer instrumentation, gorgeous vocal harmonies and heady synthesizers, May pushes his songwriting to even greater heights on follow-up Do Things.
A summertime album if there ever was one, Do Things mines the breezy and beautiful pop of mid-’60s Beach Boys and Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest to create an altogether dense yet easy feeling set of music. Single “Fun” is the kind of gorgeous and buoyant standout that hints at the ethereality of Paw Tracks labelmate Panda Bear, but with a heightened pop sensibility. May layers on some ’70s classic rock guitar on “Tell Her,” lays down some thumping electronic beats on “Best Friend,” and eases into some polyester funk on “Don’t Wait Too Long.” If there’s one characteristic that unites all ten songs, however, it’s the vocal harmonies, which flesh out each track with gorgeous serenity.
There’s an astonishing level of growth on Do Things, as Dent May casts aside the elements of his previous album that have lost their appeal, and embraced a new set of ideas and techniques, which have ultimately served him quite well. Admittedly, May comes close to pure pastiche at times, but you could borrow from worse sources than the Beach Boys. What matters most is his ability to translate that legendary group’s sense of youth and elegance, offering a lovely summertime gem that represents a fine new stage for the singer-songwriter.
Stream: Dent May – “Best Friend”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.