What place does retro pop have in the contemporary indie and electronic soundscapes of Montreal? Local musician Karneef doesn’t seem to care, and his debut LP Love Between Us presents his fastidious funk vision, with all its offbeat lyrics and diverse instruments, largely arranged and played by Karneef alone.
Karneef drives words into the gaps within his mellow rhythms in an articulate but offhand, almost sarcastic manner—half-speaking his train of thought in a way that is strongly reminiscent of David Byrne. In fact, with Karneef controlling almost all of the sound on this album—aside from the rhythm section—it is easy to criticize him personally as being too derivative of the legendary Talking Heads frontman. However, Karneef’s nonchalant, jokey mannerisms, mixed with the sincere lushness of his funky riffs, makes his lack of originality easily forgotten.
Despite the album’s essentially medlied melodies—in an interview with Indecent Xposure, Karneef calls the LP a “circumstantial thing”—his satisfaction with the result is infectious. On “We Found Money,” Karneef winkingly croons “We found money/ so I’m gonna blow up/ this house just won’t do/ so I’m gonna buy two” over a languid slow rhythm, and one can’t help but smile.
Other highlights of Love Between Us include half-hearted serenade “Swimming” (“Why don’t we go swimming, girl/ I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, but the only thing missin’ is some deep sea kissin’”), “Talking Man,” a lament of a tediously verbose stranger over an anxious string melody, and single “So Trippy,” which features Edmonton rapper—formerly the city’s poet laureate—Cadence Weapon.
Overall, Karneef’s precise individual control over the vocals, instruments, and production of Love Between Us results in a well-arranged, sardonically joyous debut.