Review Summary: Be cautious with Material Me, lest you end up in a sugar coma
I was shocked to hear that Tilian Pearson’s first official solo venture is full-fledged exploration into electro-pop territory, but why didn’t I expect it? Pearson has always been a pop singer. Sure, he was in post-hardcore group Tides of Man, but what he accomplished was more along the lines of pop sensibilities than anything from the band’s contemporaries. The music was technical and sometimes heavy, but the vocals were always distinctly melodic. So looking back at it all, Material Me
was bound to happen, with the album potentially serving as a portal into which Tilian could find his niche.
doesn’t really achieve this expectation, although it does bolster plenty of powerful tracks. When I say “powerful,” though, I mean that they’re lethal in the same way the last few years’ biggest pop singles have been-- think the sugary magic of “Call Me Maybe,” but with more of a musical knowledge in tow. Pockets of Material Me
are deceptively well-thought-out, coming out at first with predictable (but infectious) choruses, and steadily offering unique instrumentation to the mix. At this point, one can hear the singer’s post-hardcore influences occasionally entering the picture, with the confident guitarwork in bolder tracks like “Perfect Lie.” The moment is reminiscient of why we all fell in love with the singer in the first place, because he finds a way to wrap his voice snugly around exciting instrumental sections.
These moments serve as exception to the rule, though, with the rest of Material Me
existing in a generic electro-pop realm. The most blatant example is pseudo-anthem “Chemicals,” a track that reveres its radio-friendly ilk a bit too much. The song shows why Pearson and autotune don’t mix particularly well: the singer has a talented voice, and it’s a shame to hear it unnecessarily distorted. The bass wobbles in “Chemicals’” bridge are disheartening, too, and their careless placement show that the Tilian Pearson post-hardcore fans have come to admire has temporarily abandoned his musical identity, all for the caricature of cookie-cutter radio pop.
However, it’d be a shame not to mention the gems here. The most endearing track is easily “Favor,” a ballad whose chorus shines through much of the release’s synthetic muck. The chord structuring is experimental, the electronic elements are deftly placed and Pearson’s voice is presented organically and clearly. This culmination of the man’s talent illustrates what role the musician has been working towards in the last few years, and what one can expect in the future-- that is, if Pearson understands what works best on the release.
Overall, Material Me
is quite the mixed bag. The album simultaneously delights and confuses-- its music is enjoyable enough, but nobody particularly wants Tilian Pearson paving this path of haphazardly arranged electro-pop. Here’s hoping the singer’s new gig with post-hardcore group Dance Gavin Dance will help to solidify the edge his vocals have always had, because otherwise they’ll continue to crumble into commercialized dust.