Another revolutionary has emerged out of the cracks of the Los Angeles music scene, a notable thing in a world where one can count DJs like stops signs and where every other person is looking for their big break. When success is an anomaly, it’s worth analyzing an artist who stands out against the multitude — and in this case, the anomaly is Gallant, whose spellbinding new album Ology has been captivating our stereos for the past few weeks.
When Gallant’s first EP, Zebra, first graced our ears in 2014, it was pretty clear off the bat that the then 22-year-old had created his own enticing sound — a mix of traditional R&B with a less tangible blend of esoteric beats, disco and harpsichord; like he submerged the whole genre underwater. Through his songs like the dreamy, almost hallucinogenic “Manhattan,” and the darker tracks like “Jupiter Greyscale” and “Ibuprofen” which tap into depression and loneliness, Gallant gave us a taste of his complex individuality. Not to say that his style is some schizophrenic, mixed bag of a genre, but rather made of distinct flavors that create one holistic sound — a Chipotle burrito bowl of music, if you will (sans the risk of E. Coli).
Unsigned at the time, Christopher Gallant (now with Mind of a Genius Records) spent the next two years producing what we now, finally, have in our possession: Ology — 16 tracks of mesmerizing, tear-inducing falsetto expounding upon the highs and lows of human emotion, created with passion that is almost palpable. Ology, which literally means “a subject of study,” is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Through pensive lyrics sung with his impassioned, intentional vocals, Ology is in itself a subject worth studying, not only for musical performance but for a deeper understanding of what it means to feel human desire and despair.
Like in Zebra, Gallant’s tracks cover all bases, from fear and isolation in “Shotgun” to a paradigm of Catholicism in “Counting,” to something more seductive in “Open Up” and “Miyazaki,” yet his lyrics don’t rest on the surface, nor does Gallant play any games by sugar-coating anxiety. After the intro track, “First,” he jumps right into the core of anguish in “Talking to Myself”:
I’ve been whispering to ghosts lately
I’m begging for more time
Before I’m buried deeper in the trenches of insanity
Feed me a piece of my mind
How’d my own molecules forsake me?
Atoms chained behind my back
I should be bold, I should be bold in my logic and reasoning
But I just calculate my intentions
I hope that won’t follow me to my old age
I’m a moss-covered stone on a foothill
And I’m tumbling, tumbling
Listen: “Talking to Myself” – Gallant
It’s no wonder it took two years to complete Ology, which is twice the length as Gallant’s first EP, when each line has its own weight and merit that, if not accompanied by music, could be printed and bound inside a book. It’s also no wonder that Gallant is pals with Sufjan Stevens, the exemplar of epodic lyrics which seamlessly turn personal prose into melody. In January, Gallant released a video series titled “In the Room,” in which he and Sufjan — former tour buddies — covered Drake’s “Hotline Bling” as well as Sufjan’s own “Blue Bucket of Gold.” While Sufjan did his thing on piano, this time Gallant was on vocals, evoking some kind of divine sentiment with one of the best voices we have heard this year. After all, not just anyone can sing a Sufjan song without uproar.
Lyrics aside, Gallant’s voice is the most striking component of Ology, which transcends the vocal range of a mere human and ascends to the pearly gates where Whitney Houston now resides.
Depending on one’s preference, falsetto can either be an instant mood-booster or immediate cause for irritation. But throughout Ology, Gallant uses his impressive pipes to express a tormented cry of pain in “Chandra” or as danceable, post-disco funk in “Episode,” and even in some songs, like “Percogesic,” it’s almost used as a sexy, come hither mechanism. From one who has had the polarizing art of falsetto ruined by the likes of Andy Bernard and Five For Fighting, it’s a welcome surprise to hear it with versatility.
Watch: “Weight in Gold” – Gallant
Like Zebra, which was a grand, somewhat sporadic introduction to Gallant’s capabilities, Ology is equally as diverse in content, with the some of the strongest tracks being the previously released “Weight In Gold” and “Skipping Stones” featuring Jhené Aiko. While much of the album sounds similar, it’s clearly intended to be that way, guiding listeners to take the songs off shuffle and listen to tracks from start to finish as one would read chapters of a book.
Ology begins and ends with ambient, half-minute tracks titled “First” and “Last” (with the final note being a vibrating cell phone), and throughout the album some songs naturally blend right into the next. One example is “Bone + Tissue” and “Oh, Universe” — even though the former is reminiscent of 2006 Justin Timberlake and the latter is a melodic, one-minute analysis of the cosmos; showing Gallant’s unique capability to unify the wide spectrum of his inner complexities. Zebra, incredibly impressive for being Gallant’s first EP and also a low-budget production, opened our eyes to the different things Gallant can do. But it’s through his new tracks on Ology, by nature distinct yet fused with one another, that we see the different things Gallant already is, simultaneously and sincerely.
Oology – Gallant
Gallant Spring Tour 2016
Tue 04/26/16 Fox Theater – Oakland, CA
Wed 04/27/16 – Sat 05/07/16 Arvest Bank Theatre – Kansas City, MO
Thu 04/28/16 Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC
Fri 04/29/16 The Showbox – Seattle, WA
Sat 04/30/16 Roseland Theater – Portland, OR
Wed 05/04/16 The Depot – Salt Lake City, UT
Thu 05/05/16 Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
Sat 05/07/16 Skyway Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
Sun 05/08/16 Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL
Mon 05/09/16 Royal Oak Music Theatre – Royal Oak, MI
Wed 05/11/16 Terminal 5 – New York, NY
Thu 05/12/16 Terminal 5 – New York, NY
Fri 05/13/16 Echostage – Washington, DC
Sat 05/14/16 Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA
Mon 05/16/16 Phoenix Concert Theatre – Toronto, ON
Tue 05/17/16 New City Gas – Montreal, QC
Wed 05/18/16 Royale – Boston, MA
Fri 05/20/16 Aisle 5 – Atlanta, GA
Sat 05/21/16 The Fillmore at Jackie Gleason – Miami Beach, FL
Thu 06/16/16 – Sun 06/19/16 Firefly Music Festival – Dover, DE
Thu 06/23/16 – Sun 06/26/16 Electric Forest Festival – Rothbury, MI
Sat 07/02/16 – Sun 07/03/16 FVDED in the Park – Surrey, BC
Sat 07/02/16 – Sun 07/03/16 Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL
Sat 08/27/16 The Surf Lodge – Montauk, NY
Sun 08/28/16 Afropunk Festival – Brooklyn, NY