Joe Kubler’s solo performance project René LeConte is an oddball amalgam of MIDI shimmer, canned Casio drums, and Kubler’s own affecting falsetto. On his debut record, Young & Dumb, Kubler manages to combine these synthetic elements into a lush, organic whole. The sound is reminiscent of Kubler’s former band, Bubbly Mommy Gun, but with more emphasis on concise, direct songwriting. Though scattered at times, the album is brimming with brilliant melody.
The songs here are meant for a specific kind of performance: Live, Kubler plays the backing tracks off an iPhone and sings and dances along. Even on record, though, tracks like the instrumental “Dance, René, Dance” retain a certain charm, and other songs benefit from listening in a mellow setting. On “In An Out,” Kubler layers harmonies over two repeating tones, tonic and dominant, while countless drum sounds swirl around the left and right stereo channels.
However narrow the record’s concept might seem at first glance, Kubler’s talent as a songwriter is everywhere apparent. “Favorite Song” is near-perfect pop, building from a quiet, insistent verse to a rousing chorus. Even the moments on the record that seem not to be fully-developed are still compelling, as when Kubler follows the deceptive lead-in on “Idol Workshop” with a brief, soaring melody, then bows out before the 90-second mark. Young & Dumb is highly satisfying in its own right, even as it seems to capture something greater still in development. 4 out of 5.
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