travis

In case you’re not already familiar with Travis Bretzer, allow me to reel off some quickfire facts about the man behind ‘Waxing Romantic’. He’s just about reached his mid-twenties – he’s twenty four, to be precise. He’s from Canada – Edmonton, Alberta, specifically. He makes easy-going guitar pop – the phrases ‘freewheeling sensibility’ and ‘casual delivery’ are two he’s keen to be associated with. If you feel like you’ve heard all of this before, it’s because you have. There’s another Canadian guy in his early-to-mid-twenties who makes lackadaisical melodic pop music like this, and a lot better, too. For all Bretzer’s virtues, it’s hard to feel that this release doesn’t totally smack of opportunism during a year that’s seen Mac DeMarco cement cult hero status within the alternative music world.

‘Waxing Romantic’’s opener, ‘Giving Up’, is replete with precisely the same type of hazy guitar that runs all the way through DeMarco’s critically-acclaimed ‘Salad Days’, which dropped earlier in 2014.

Elsewhere, the vocal affectations and deliberate slackness of pace contribute to the overwhelming impression that Bretzer is to DeMarco what Adele and Duffy once were to Amy Winehouse. The problem, for Bretzer, is quite simple; DeMarco’s appeal lies largely in his frankly irrepressible charisma – it’s something that drips out of his songs in a manner that’s unavoidable to the listener, and if his stage antics down the years have done something to accentuate that, then that’s fair enough. Bretzer, meanwhile, sounds consistently disengaged here, as if he’s skirting over the top of instrumental arrangements he’s not quite sure about (which in itself would be strange, because a clutch of the songs here are quite lovely in their construction).

What Bretzer needs is more moments of unbridled individuality; the noodling guitar solo on ‘Lonely Heart’ feels triumphant, because you finally realise that you’re listening to a guy with his own ideas, who isn’t totally indebted to the creativity of others. There’s a similar atmosphere on the almost-tropical sway of ‘Lady Red’, and it’s moments of inspiration like that that make you wonder why, for example, Bretzer saw the need to include appallingly naff touches like the rain effects on unfortunately-titled closer ‘Good Times’.

‘Slacker pop’ is by no stretch of the imagination a sector of the industry that’s currently going through any kind of fallow period; the records that currently define that movement might sound as if they require no real effort, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you can phone it in as blatantly as Travis Bretzer has on ‘Waxing Romantic’.

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