Oxford, Miss., troubadour and ukulele-smith Dent May is signed to Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label, but don’t let that lead you to believe that the bespectacled singer/songwriter has much in common with Avey Tare and Panda Bear. There’s no freak-folk or densely layered psychedelic compositions on The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele. Rather, May is a theatrical pop musician, playing charming, if somewhat silly, tunes that have more in common with the likes of Magnetic Fields or Jens Lekman, while the image of the nerdy, tuxedo-clad performer on the front would have you believe he’s a lounge performer, or perhaps a potential opener for Neil Hamburger. And, sans the standup comedy, he seems to encapsulate all of these qualities in his oddball debut.
May introduces himself with maximum kitsch value, sending a personal message to the listener as he warmly croons “welcome to the record” on the album’s brief opening track, before transitioning into “Meet Me In the Garden,” a tropical-flavored tune that incorporates a hiccuping rhythm, not unlike Serge Gainsbourg’s “Bonnie and Clyde.” In “College Town Boy,” May introduces a character who “smokes reefer all day” and has “highbrow tastes,” not unlike “Howard,” who shows up later on with his “one man show.” Yet the latter is the superior of the two, with its breezy rhythm that recalls “Sloop John B.” “Oh Paris!” is a likewise lovely track, though May lays on the cheese a bit thick as he pronounces it “oh Par-eeeeee!”
“You Can’t Force a Dance Party” is something like Jens Lekman’s “Black Cab” in reverse, in that everyone else is a depressing bummer, rather than the narrator. Nonetheless, it’s a fun little track, one that could easily kick up some impromptu dancing without much effort. And, quite frankly, most of May’s tracks have that happy-go-lucky charm enough to win over the toughest critics. That said, May’s lounge-leaning ukulele pop is a little short on variety. The Good Feeling Music is, however, a debut, and there’s always time for May to expand his approach in the coming years. Nonetheless, he’s got a pretty fun set of songs here.
Magnetic Fields – Get Lost
Jens Lekman – Oh, You’re So Silent Jens
Andrew Bird – Weather Systems
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.