Idiot Glee is the nom de plume of solo artist James Frilley, which he lifted from an interview with Brian Eno where he used Idiot Glee to describe the, “blissful and joyous feeling that one experiences when completely lost in the moment of creation”. His most recent work was recorded and produced by Stephen Drask.
James is very open about the range of influences on the music he makes, hard hitting legends of the 1960’s and 1970’s including Harry Nilsson, John Cale, and the Brian’s, both Eno and Wilson, are James’ go to guys. He predominantly composes his music on pianos and keyboards, sometimes performing as a solo artist, but in recent years he has formed a small band around him incorporating guitar, bass and drums into his sonic mixing bowl.
James is from Lexington in Kentucky, a place his press release described as cozy and a town. In fact it’s a city, the second biggest city in Kentucky, with a population of over three hundred thousand. Rather oddly the city is twinned with the much less populous Suffolk market town of Newmarket. Lexington’s most famous resident was probably Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of one Abraham Lincoln. The city has some fairly eclectic musical links including Backstreet Boys Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson, The Apples In Stereo frontman and Elephant 6 Recording Company co-founder Robert Schnedier, and Richard Hell, one time member of Television and the man Malcolm McLaren cites as a major influence on The Sex Pistol’s look and attitude.
James started releasing music as Idiot Glee back in 2009, although he has been playing piano since he was just seven years old. He has since released a series of albums and EP’s, the vast majority of which have come out via Hop Hop Records. His latest, and self-titled, album came out at the end of January.
Much of Idiot Glee’s latest record seems to drift by in a sort of uneasy, discontented haze. From the very introduction, opening track Deep Warm Something, there’s something slightly disconcerting about this record. It begins straight forwardly enough, a wash of gently psychedelic synth swells, but after a minute and a half it’s suddenly joined by a jaunty ragtime piano. It’s the sort of thing you’d picture playing out alongside creaking wooden fairground rides and mechanical fortune telling machines, that it’s then joined by some Fleet Foxes-like wordless vocals just add to the feeling you’re hearing something really rather odd.
The record continues in a similarly disconcerting vein, the innuendo fuelled Baby (I Could Be Your Bone) starts off like Father John Misty singing over Casiotone For The Painfully then goes all AOR Bombast and recalls the lush, glistening production of My Morning Jacket’s recent output. The Whip starts off with a jarring angular bass-line that sounds a bit post-punk, but quickly ends up more like The Human League, whilst Personal Computer Television, a weird enough title already, is a poncho short of a mid-level band at Woodstock, a sort of trippy rhythmic haze. It’s a record that never sounds rushed preferring to sort of drift by very much in the head of its creator.
Idiot Glee is however best when the songs initial oddness resolves into something truly fulfilling. Recent single, Evergreen Psycho, builds around a descending synth line, paired with some gorgeous matching piano, it’s a pleasantly warm drift, at complete contrast to a slightly pained, emotive vocal and lyrics such as the quietly heartbreaking, “we can’t touch, we can’t love, it’s the lake inside you that I want, I can’t see, I can’t breathe, but I can dream”, and it’s dreams that seem to be at the heart of this record, it feels like you’re in James’ mind, not the real world. Gorgeous closing track, The River, is the albums most stripped moment, but also its most immediate, rewarding the listener with some oddly Christmassy synth-lines and the sound of Idiot Glee fully embracing the joys of their Laurel Canyon inspired vocal harmonies. Best of all is I Don’t Feel Right, a winning mix of Grandaddy style melancholic indie, and a surprisingly obvious nod to the vocal melody from LCD Soundsystem’s Something Great, it’s beautifully paced and produced, and a track that just begs for repeat listens, revealing new secrets on every spin.
For an album that’s for the most part intriguingly woozy, it includes a surprising amount of inexplicable moments. What’s That Smell is just sadly a bit daft, whilst the idea of including Chinese New Year, a slightly clichéd instrumental once was odd, but to later on the record reprise it is just baffling. That said, on a record that’s clearly designed to leave the listener slightly uneasy, maybe this is just James’ way of telling us that things are never quite how they seem in the world of Idiot Glee.
Idiot Glee is out now via Hop Hop Records. Click HERE for all upcoming Idiot Glee tour dates.