Laptop Opening Credits

Laptop is the project of one Jesse Hartman (brother of the late Phil), a New York-based musician, actor and filmmaker whose former musical efforts first surfaced in the major-label group Sammy. Not satisfied with this material, Hartman began putting together oddball synth-pop tracks on his IBM think-pad (hence the name), and was all set to release this material until his label (Island) dumped him in the Universal mega-merger. Finally, this material has surfaced thanks to a Norweigan DJ friend of Hartman's that started the label Trust Me, which is set for a slew of Laptop releases this year. The upbeat pop of Sammy has been replaced with a darker, ironic take on the current trend of retro synth-pop. Hartman's lower-octave voice nears deadpan delivery on most of the tracks, reminding me of his fellow New Yorker Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields, etc). Hartman, who freely admits the inspiration of Richard Hell and Television, takes digs at the modern world and in one case on an unnamed musician, "I'm So Happy You Failed." The electronics of his music are well produced (thanks to help from Mark Saunders and others) and although this album could have easily been released in the '80s, his well-crafted lyrical subject matter reminds us that Laptop is definitely music for the 21st century. There seems to be quite a little dark electo-pop scene developing these days; Hartman describes his own efforts as "Warhol-ian pop," since his work in the film and video medium allows him to think of his songs as cinematic, rather than simply musical. Overall, Opening Credits is a great way to lament about the irony of the modern world and for added fun he's even included a twisted cover of Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll To Me." Great stuff. (Parasol)