Electric Guest charges modern soul into ‘Mondo’

Courtesy of Downtown Records

Pitchforks: 4.5/5

Record Label:  Downtown Records

Soul and funk are back. In contrast to muffled and technologically unenhanced 1960s-era sound, Electric Guest brings a modern feel to such renditions. Its debut album “Mondo” features songs that move and sway and are guaranteed to make listeners do the same.

The Los Angeles duo consists of lead singer Asa Taccone and instrumentalist Matthew Compton. Though these names fail to strike any familiarities just yet, the production may convince a listener to give the album a chance.

Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton needs no introduction in independent music. The New York-born rapper/drummer/producer is known from such acts such as Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells and The Black Keys. Nominated for 11 Grammys, Burton has taken home three, most recently as 2011 for Producer of the Year.

Taccone may best be known as the younger brother of former Saturday Night Live writer, Jorma Taccone. Asa began his foray into music by assisting his brother’s satirical outlet The Lonely Island. The California-bred voice behind Electric Guest met Burton through Jorma, and eventually moved into the producer’s former Los Angeles home.

After playing and recording alongside instrumentalist Compton in the in-house studio, the two began collaborating with Burton at a converted lawyer’s office to complete what would eventually become “Mondo.”

The album begins with synth hooks and the soft yet spirited voice of Taccone. Burton’s distinct style truly takes over in this track, as it does for most of the album.

However, the infectious single “This Head I Hold” wastes no time in picking up the pace and setting the tone with the twinkling piano and huge drum roll to start of the track. It only picks up from there, almost ensuring dance out of any listener. From there, the contagious song is placed on automatic repeat, as it is just way too fun not to listen to again and again.

Taccone’s smooth vocals, Compton’s innovative instrumentalism and Burton’s skillful compilations prove to be a winning combination as the album rolls on. Where one member falls off, another seemingly picks up. The only way to accurately describe equally contagious songs such as “Under the Gun,” “The Bait” and “Waves” is by using words most haven’t used in this generation: groovy, jazzy, far out.

The ability of the album as a whole to transcend the soul and funk of years past and develop it with today’s musical technology to create their own unique sound.

Taccone’s experience from assisting in the production in the famous “SNL Digital Shorts” gives him experience in developing the catchy songs that make “Mondo” so worthwhile.

According to a post about the band by Burton on his website, he originally showed reservations in performing the songs, Taccone’s live performance reveals the passion and energy behind the music.

Electric Guest uses its debut album to show how fun it could be to travel back and time and revisit the days of soda fountains and doo wops. They pay homage to soul and funk in such a modern way that has yet to be seen in music lately, and the cool and calculated approach makes the performance right on cue.

Burton takes the bulk of the praise in this album, as his trademark production is all over each song. Granted, Taccone’s vocals add the uniquely funked-up pop that makes “Mondo” so much fun.

Whether or not Electric Guest can succeed without its skillful production is a question for the future, but for now, the rookie band can sit back and watch listeners dance and smile their way through their debut.

Reach the reporter at mbobman@asu.edu

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