Lo-Fang Blue Film

Lo-Fang Blue Film
In Martin Aston's excellent new book, Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD, he documents the label's evolution from a start-up offshoot of Beggars Banquet, to the UK's reigning indie label of the 1980s and '90s, to its extraordinary resurrection after the millennium. For over 30 years, the label has survived and maintained its influence.

While no label has a spotless track record, it's hard to imagine that 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell would have signed Los Angeleno singer-songwriter-producer Lo-Fang (a.k.a. Matthew Hemerlein) were he still in charge. But times have changed, and maybe aesthetically he fits into the label's current crop, but his debut album, Blue Film, is a real low point for such an institution.

The production is competent, yet very derivative for 2014, appearing stuck between ornately symphonic leftfield pop and Timberlake-brand R&B. Hemerlein's lyrics, though, are a real weak point (see "Boris), and even though his husky voice is a great companion to the soundscapes, he could really use a co-songwriter, because there isn't one memorable song here.

I get the sense that Hemerlein had a real epiphany when he first heard both James Blake's debut LP and JT's "What Goes Around… Comes Around," because Blue Film is essentially an amalgamation of both. If this sounds intriguing, maybe Blue Film is for you, but it lacks both Blake's studio prowess and Timberlake's charisma. (4AD)