By Brian Tucker
With a title like Hot Banana it gets the mind wandering. But D&D Sluggers, now the solo effort of Tim White (the chip tune pop outfit was previously a duo), has advanced their sound, its even a bit murky, all without straying too far from the party.
Those familiar with the danceable energy and pop confections created using old school video game sounds and synth will not be disappointed. Hot Banana, tongue-in-cheek title and all, delivers. Songs like “Fight” are made for the dance floor and to be so bold, give Pharell’s “Happy” a run for the money as an infectious summer tune.
Layered with squash beats and flowing synth, White’s hooks – vocals and swirling notes combined, are played for soulful effect. But he has fun with them, even giving them a flashy vocal effect for added personality. “XX” follows this vibe, less slick and more to the point, but it adds a little Nile Rogers-esque guitar throughout.
“RKWLDR” takes the energy level to its highest point on the album, where spastic percussion and keyboard notes unfold maniacally with brief carnival atmosphere. “Robot Girl” is a bit manic too, done like the nervousness of a midnight B-movie. But much of the album’s songs have a shadow quality about them, a seriousness that couples fun aspects of the music. “Choreography” vibrates like an electrified video game wall. Fuzzy synth runs through the song, punctuated by handclaps and additional synth led by White’s soulful delivery.
This vocal quality really shines on “Stasis,” with White’s singing front and center. Sounding like the album’s love song, “Stasis” is built around punchy percussion and a guitar riff that elevates with each delivery. Next to “Fight,” “Stasis” is up there for best track on Hot Banana, an album that wanders, but always with interesting, solid results.
Take the haunting atmosphere of “Villain of the Week” in which White sings deeply and adds a chorus of “la la la la la la la’s” that have a creepy vibe straight out of Willy Wonka movie and his mysterious Oompa Loompas. It’s a tune that will surprise you, whether with starker qualities or that it sounds so different for D&D, even as it’s about people posting spoilers on the internet.
White really felt like stretching his legs musically and creatively on Hot Banana. This is evident on album closer “Every Time You Walk By,” mostly an instrumental in which White drifts in and out vocally. It’s laced with prickly notes and tender electronica. With a 50s doo wop vibe and harmonica playing, the song sounds like one door closing and another opening for different musical possibilities.