The slackers have taken over indie music once again, and it’s glorious.
Artists like Paul Cherry and Homeshake are taking a page from early ’90s Beck, as their ripped-jeans, cheap-guitars-and-even-cheaper-beer image has resonated once again with broke stoners everywhere.
These artists may portray themselves as lazy losers, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. For proof, look at Drugdealer, the Los Angeles-based solo project of Michael Collins, a well-networked neo-folk traditionalist who has worked on various projects with other slackers, like Mac DeMarco and Ariel Pink.
Collins’ first album under the Drugdealer moniker — one of a slough of other drug-related pseudonyms including Run DMT, Salvia Plath and Doobie Sisters — titled “The End of Comedy,” came out in 2016 and echoed the minimalist folk of many ’60s and ’70s icons like Donovan and Joni Mitchell. The record elevated Collins to a new level of success, reassuring the listening public that sax and piano-heavy folk-rock hadn’t gone out of style.
Drugdealer’s sophomore effort, “Raw Honey,” was released last Friday, April 19, and as a continuation of the peaceful, hippie jam that was his first album, “Raw Honey” is an ode to those who love to love. Through the organic mixing and instrumentation, listeners are placed on a picnic blanket resting on a grassy knoll of sound. Each melodic bassline and innocent lyric glows like the rising sun, making the album a righteous follow up to “The End of Comedy.”
The second single from “Raw Honey,” “Honey,” features the psych-pop innovator and leader of the indie act Weyes Blood, Natalie Mering. The track floats through a clear blue sky of sound, with clean electric guitar bending up to reach the vibratoed inflection of Mering’s giddy vocals.
“You got the magic smile/makes people turn their heads/and take their love and make it burn for you instead.”
This admission of longing and desire sees the world through a purely admirative lens, where no amount of negative experiences can taint the fact that all emotions are part of the joy of life.
The harmonies in every song jump out in an almost backwoods country fashion, with an ever so light touch of John Lennon nasal twinge. The track “London Nightmare” relies heavily on these lazy, harmonizing drawls to accentuate the vibrancy of a walk along a serene country road.
“Day glowing streets/drumming beats/sneakers and pleats/something nice to eat/my life complete/isn't it neat?” Collins paints.
But the best aspect of “Raw Honey” is the earnestness of every note. There isn’t a single moment on the entire album that feels forced or unnecessary. The track “Fools” is the rapids among the bubbling creek of sound that encompasses the rest of the album. With a moody saxophone bouncing the vibe downstream and countless extended, harmonized “ah’s,” the track could fit nicely in a ’70s soft-rock album like something by Steely Dan or Supertramp.
In music today, it seems the word slacker is synonymous with analog, and a close listener will be able to hear the warbles and warmth from the reel-to-reel used to record “Raw Honey.” As Mac DeMarco once said in a 2014 video by Pitchfork, “It’s all about pitch control, you dumbasses, get yourself a tape machine. Get your f— head out of that Ableton s—, you moron.”
It’s notoriously difficult to make good sounding recordings using the tape machines that still survive today, but when it’s done well, the sound can’t be beat. Drugdealer’s analog allegiance displays the effort and care that went into the record. The artistic choice of the tape with the natural talent and soul of Collins’ voice and songwriting makes “Raw Honey” a rare and lovable work of passion.