The Upshot: With its short, punchy approach to songwriting, more an interesting record than a piece of music you’ll return to for enjoyment.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Mica Levi, who ditched conservatory training to make odd, joyful punk songs on home-made or repurposed instruments, took a break a little while ago to compose the eerie soundtrack to Under the Skin. Her work here is entirely different from the film’s moody, spare, doomed atmospherics, sprightly almost, full of clap-trap beats and kindergarten-bright keyboard lines, drenched in echoey, hissy room sound and abbreviated to enigma.
Songs are mostly short and primary-color simple, repeating riffs to capture a single idea or emotion. “Sad” punches out a one-two rhythm like a boxer warming up; you can almost see him dodging the squiggly darts of synthesizer that zoom in from the corners. Over it all, Mica sings “When I feel sad, when I feel sad,” over and over in a deadpan singsong that doesn’t sound sad at all. It is a tight little conundrum, over in a couple of minutes. “Oh Baby” is more diffuse and luminous, a hard clanking pots-and-pans rhythm pushing it forward, a soul-flavored keyboard adding the glow. All these songs are roughly produced enough to sound primitive, but electrified enough to sound futuristic, in a weird temporal mix that is, on average, exactly right now.
Part of the charm is that Levi reserves the right to do whatever the fuck she wants. She spends most of the 100 seconds of “Thinking It” talking about a bad run, envying the pot smokers along her route and pondering what else she’d have to give up to enjoy her old age. It’s the kind of interior monologue that has gone through the head of roughly everyone who has ever laced up a pair of sneakers, just sliced out of life and given a drum machine beat. And later, in “Unity,” she tries on a bit of noise and a metal voice (though mixed so you can still hear the breakbeat under it, and the fuzzy, indefinite vocals over top).
Good Sad Happy Bad is more an interesting record than a piece of music you’ll return to for enjoyment. It’s a fun place to visit, but you might not want to live there.
DOWNLOAD: “Oh Baby,” “Sad”