Sometimes a record comes along that catches your attention, not because it defines a generation or because it’s intensely personal or makes a powerful emotional connection to all its listeners, but because it sounds really cool. In fact, I’d be lying if I said that at least a third of my music collection wasn’t purchased based on that fact alone. Music listening does require some sort of sonic appeal after all, and Tom Vek fulfills that requirement with a startlingly rich array of sounds and samples on his debut, We Have Sound. Mixing disco, punk, pop, funk and electronic styles into a nameless genre that Vek can claim his own, We Have Sound is the sound of one man throwing every idea he has into the pot, and coming out with a surprisingly good concoction.
It may seem at first that Vek (which seems too cool to be a real name) is merely attempting too much at one time, but each new idea he pulls out seems to blend perfectly into the one that comes afterward. The UK musician, who performed just about everything on the album, has been compared to Beck for his elastic songwriting sensibility and kitchen sink approach, as well as his do-it-yourself one-man-band quality. And not unlike Beck (rhymes with Vek), Tom is an extremely versatile musician and likes to get his dance on. Few songs on We Have Sound aren’t fit for the disco, and if it wasn’t clear already, Vek emphasizes the “dance” in dancepunk. But like I said, he does so much more than that.
Inasmuch as Vek tries a little bit of everything, he also manages to not overdo anything. He never delves too far into kitsch, straight ahead punk or throbbing electronica. First single “C-C (You Set the Fire in Me)” is definitely a punky dance number, but—surprise!—there aren’t any guitars. And if there are, you certainly don’t notice them. There is however, static, keyboard, funk bass and heavy drums. It’s splendidly lo-fi, once again reminding the listener of Beck, but during the chorus, where Vek reverses the title in his refrain, atmospheric synths turn the song from a dance jam to a psychedelic wonder. On “I Ain’t Sayin’ My Goodbyes,” Vek out Bloc Parties Bloc Party, sounding like a more raw, drum-looped cousin to “Banquet.”
What’s admirable about Vek is that he isn’t afraid to abandon one idea and jump to the next. While the first two tracks may have prepped us for an album’s worth of punky, disco anthems, things change significantly on the sexy, rubbery third track, “If You Want,” with brilliant lyrics like “If you want fire/then we better start smoking.” Then, the Prince-like “A Little Word in Your Ear” follows, with a straight-up funk rhythm and walking basslines. Though, once again, Vek moves away from these ideas altogether with the messy garage rock of “If I Had Changed My Mind.”
Listening to Tom Vek is an adventure. From one minute to the next, there’s no telling what’s ahead. And with each new surprise comes a great set of hooks and sonic intricacies. Good on Vek for creating music that’s both innovative and a whole lot of fun. I see this one staying on repeat for a while. Oh, and did I mention it sounds really cool?
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.