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Ballet - Daddy Issues

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 25 / 10 / 2023

Ballet  - Daddy Issues
Label: Fika Recordings
Format: LP


Danceable synth-pop, indie pop and decadent themes on self-described New York 'gay nerd band' duo The Ballet

Greg Goldberg and Craig Willse, as The Ballet, are in top form on their sixth album. The duo’s songs, while certainly a peek for outsiders into the long-established gay subculture and hierarchy of New York City’s bars, clubs, bathhouses, and rural cruising spots, are also accessible to classic New Wave fans who aren’t in on all (or any of) the jokes. Anyone whose record collection already contains Dog Bowl, Father John Misty, Magnetic Fields, Jonathan Coulten, John Grant, and yes, the Pet Shop Boys is probably already a Ballet devotee as well, or soon will be when they hear gloriously profane, heartbreaking, relatable, and sometimes outrageously funny lyrics of ‘Daddy Issues’ which are set to electronic pop. Unfortunately, there is not an accompanying booklet or sheet with lyrics, at least not for the copy I have, and there really should be. I swear to you, the lyrics are often absolute gems, and I know I have missed some of them. With characteristic ennui and deadpan delivery similar to Stephen Merritt’s, vocalist/guitarist/primary songwriter Greg Goldberg describes situations that would have other people screaming, sobbing, and then laughing hysterically. I’m only using Merritt as a comparison point, not to diminish Goldberg’s talent in any way. There are married men secretly hooking up with strangers at the YMCA and various bathhouses (which are described down to the obligatory neo-classical architecture and interior design scheme on ‘At The Bathhouse’), confused teenagers, infidelity (‘Married Man’, ‘Two Boyfriends’), and romantic entanglements with a cast of characters that require browsing Urban Dictionary and back issues of ‘The Advocate’ to define.’’Handsome Devil’ is an accurate character study of an eerily soulless narcissist, with a musical backing that is simultaneously spooky and an excellent dance groove. ‘CumDumpMike’ starts out like a nostalgic early ‘60s twee female vocalist standard or girl group pop song. Then instead of Sandra Dee or The Crystals, it’s Greg wittily revealing promiscuous Mike, who sings in the church choir “with a voice like an angel and the charm of a vampire” – the perfect point of emphasis where bassist Craig’s backing vocals pop in. It’s not all last-minute hookups before last call at the club (‘Eenie Meenie’) and merrily navigating home after a party turned into a riot (‘I’m On Drugs’), though. There is genuine, heartfelt loneliness (‘Since You’ve Been Gone”’ and desire for meaningful connection with someone (‘Stay’), as well as what I suspect is a melancholic feeling of being out of place while aging in a scene of constantly beautiful young people (‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’, ‘The Little Hand’). The whimsical, emotional atmosphere, dreamy sound, and blend of jangle pop and lo-fi electronic music (a vintage Roland, perhaps?) is an unbeatable combination. Fika Recordings is a well-known indie label based in the UK, named after the Swedish term for enjoying a break with coffee and pastries, and was founded by Simon Love in 2011. A future collaboration with The Ballet and Love would be a wonderful thing. As a company dedicated to helping underrepresented and emerging artists, including LGBT artists who might not have easily found a home elsewhere, Fika has done remarkably well in fostering a global community. The Ballet and Fika have curated music that resonates with the queer community while also being fun for all the goofy normies too. In fact, I’m going to grab the rest of their catalogue as soon as I can.

Track Listing:-
1 The Little Hand
2 I’m on Drugs
3 Daddy’s Boy
4 A Married Man
5 Two Boyfriends
6 At the Bathhouse
7 The Fountain of Youth
8 Eenie Meenie
9 I Don’t Feel Like Dancing
10 Handsome Devil
11 CumDumpMike
12 Since You’ve Been Gone
13 Stay

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