What soon becomes apparent on “New Solution”, the latest solo track by James K Ultra is that he may have found a happy medium between experimentation and pop hooks. The track sounds as quirky and adventurous as you’d expect, building to ear-catching pop crescendos. As a single piece of work it is a fine achievement. The tune is catchy, the harmonies are weirdly endearing, and the track hangs together really well as a whole. In general, the track has an 80’s flavor – upbeat pop, with liberal use of synths and other electronic effects in the arrangement. Since I favor 80’s music, this is a plus for me.
There is a fanciful, almost hallucinatory quality to the song, like there’s something darker going on beneath the surface. Guided by synths and lyrical focus, it has a remarkable consistency that keeps it from being a messy pastiche of disconnected ideas. Catchy and confident, James K Ultra’s vocals resonate with evocative phrasings and chants with woozy, psychedelic pop appeal that will elevate his status in the underground synth-pop elite. Moreover “New Solution” has enough intricate rhythmic elements and interesting synth sounds to keep the listener engaged, making this record incredibly exciting.
The dominating bassline blends beautifully with flowery guitar and keyboard sounds, while the drums keep the beat danceable. It’s a welcome change from some of James’ contemporaries, who often are too heavy-handed and lack the style that listeners are searching for in this type of music.
“New Solution” immediately locks into an urgent synth driven groove. Electronic pings slide under the dark vocals, which spew out lyrics that are tinged with existentialist motifs. The track’s shiny feel and upbeat instrumental never disguise the lyrics, which simmer and soar with precision.
The track blends modern and vintage tastes with a millennial whoop soaring over the top. At the same time though, James K Ultra is not emulating the past, but rather creating his own future. Ultimately the production is sleek, immersive, and complements the theme of the song.
It is clear that James has excellent pop-sensibilities and knows how to draw a listener in. But he also knows how to provide sufficient substance to hold that listener to repeat runs. “New Solution” is ready to capture the imagination of mainstream audiences by having created a track that is as accessibly poppy as much as it is adventurously different.
It seems to be a common phenomenon that casual music fans believe artists literally come out of nowhere. In truth, most performers have usually been toiling away for many years under various guises. James K Ultra is the solo moniker of the founding member of post punk/synth pop Virginia darlings, Pain in the Yeahs.
Fresh off of a grueling and hurricane impacted September, touring cycle in support of the full length “Dopamine Noir”, the band returned to normal life, bills and responsibilities, leaving James with a brief moment in time to explore another creative avenue – one with a sense of immediacy, a DIY ethic and lo fi pop sensibilities – to find a “New Solution”.