(Playloop Records 2008)Model - Physical

The word "unique" is used too easily when describing singers. It seems that "unique" is just a better spin on "abrasive," "annoying," or "hard to connect with." It's been ages since I've heard a voice that is both unique and engaging, but lead singer Markie of The Model is the possessor of this kind of voice. As I listened to "Physical," I thought he might be the jaguar/hound dog cousin of a David Bowie/Grace Jones lovechild. His slinky, growling, sometimes androgynous delivery drips with expression and yearning. Of his style, Markie says he internalized all the background music from the '80s and combined this with heavy influences from Kraftwork and Daft Punk. "Physical" showcases Markie's vocal depth on a frolic through outright dance-pop to trashy S&M fashion show soundtrack.

Opener "What Does It Look Like I'm Doing" is a refreshingly original take on the dance/electro feel with a pumping beat that is ethereal and powerful at the same time. The elements are all here - shimmering, heady synths fill the upper spectrum while gritty bass and thumping kick drum deliver down low, leaving Markie free to lay waste to the entire mid-range with hishi-fashion crooning. "Physical" hits its high point on "I Won't Be Hanging Out Anymore," with Markie's dangerously seductive growls tying together a slightly disorienting assault of swirling synths. Track three, "Do You Believe In Angels?," has the strongest hook on the album; the song is full of emotion and reflection.

After showing off their pop sensibilities in the opening third of the album, The Model moves on to explore a wider range of electronic songsmithery. There's plenty of synth wizardry to keep the tech-heads happy (The Model runs their live drum machines through a VHS machine for a vintage sound). With a giant stash of analog equipment, the textures are rich and constantly developing. The songs on the back half stay consistent within themselves rather than adhering to pop structure. If the front end is a glitzy '80s throwback party, the back half is the crisp, cool convertible ride through an endless urban trance-scape afterward.

Markie emphasizes the importance of vocal melodies in his songs. The bubbling, swirling, blazing synths have to know their role - the vocal is what carries the song, and it's what people connect with. In the case of The Model, it feels like you are indulging rather than listening. The rich darkness of the Philadelphia-based trio will have you reaching for your bowl of 72% dark chocolate or your zestiest Zinfandel. The Model is paired perfectly with steamy after parties, questionable motives, and the strange vagaries of urban life in the 21st century.


buy it!