A New York band that melds smart pop with Afro-tropical rhythms? Put away your topsiders, this is not Vampire Weekend (although there are similarities). But do strap on your best dance shoes, because The Fancy Shapes come down hard on the "beat" side of Afrobeat. The disc in question is Fun City, and you will dance. Most of the 12 songs here recall the wit and groove appreciation of the Tom Tom Club, matching vocalist Sabrina Roberts' beguiling voice to savvy lyrics and irresistible rhythms. Guitarist Seth Kaufman, a former Page Six reporter, turns a writerly eye on party music, whether deconstructing the concept grammatically ("I party, you party, we party," conjugates "We Party"), the liberating breakup dance tune "I Can Can-Can," or succumbing to its animalistic impulses (on the Blondie-esque instant single,"Shut Up & Kiss Me"). Even the album closer "Pants on a Horse," which recounts the court battle of feather dancer/burlesque heroine Sally Rand, veers into party territory, imagining the dancer in "heaven's perpetual rave." Elsewhere, New York City's dreams and rituals are celebrated, from "Meet Cute"'s desire to find a special someone in a special way, to the annual "Spring Fever" ("Someone call a lawyer / to get an enjoinder / against going back to work"), to the unique magic of the "Coney Island Mashup," which promises, "If you can't make out here, you can't make out anywhere." Smart lyrics, yes, but it's the feverish rhythms that will get your feet moving. Sun-dappled guitars skitter over the propulsive grooves of drummer Dan Roth and bassist Seth Walter. Fun City mixes tropical heat with urban angst. Spoiler alert!: The heat wins. —Mark Schwartz
The spirited debut from New York-based Afro/indie pop outfit the Fancy Shapes features 12 highly danceable slabs of sun-filled urban angst, proving that the term "island music" applies to Manhattan just as much as it does to Jamaica.
- Some literary types know how to rock, and we're not talking about Rick Moody's Wingdale Community Singers. The digi-lit set is still buzzing about the killer concert that Barnes & Noble VP of merchandising Seth Kaufman's band, the Fancy Shapes, gave at Ace of Clubs last week to celebrate the release of their auspicious CD, "Fun City." A number of Kaufman's friends and old bandmates came out to see him moon at the band's sexy singer, Sabrina Roberts, and let their freak flags fly to the band's "I Can Can-Can" and its Afro-pop version of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine." Those in the crowd included Cond√© Nast digital editorial director Jamie Pallot, Howcast.com COO Daniel Blackman, literary agent Scott Moyers and New Yorker senior editor Peter Canby.
- Ex-Mambo-X guitarist Seth Kaufman and bassist Seth Walter are still making music together down in Brooklyn. Their band is the Fancy Shapes, and they‚Äôve just released their debut album, ‚ÄúFun City.‚Äù And not too surprisingly, at least on ‚ÄúFun City,‚Äù the Fancy Shapes sound very much like Mambo-X. Both bands feature(d) the same line-up: bass, drums and two guitars fronted by a female vocalist. Kaufman wrote or co-wrote all of the 12 songs on ‚ÄúFun City,‚Äù and the distinctive, chiming Afro-pop guitar work is still at the heart of most of the songs. The album was recorded and mixed in Brooklyn earlier this year by Eli Janney (of Girls Against Boys), and singer Sabrina Roberts proves to be a thoroughly charming vocalist and musical focal point. Of course, Afro-pop isn‚Äôt the only reference point on ‚ÄúFun City.‚Äù The band ‚Äì which also features guitarist Daniel Berchanko and drummer Dan Roth ‚Äì lays down a buoyant Martha Reeves & the Vandellas/Motown groove for ‚ÄúLove Rush,‚Äù while ‚ÄúSide Kick‚Äù cribs an unmistakable East LA ‚ÄúLa Bamba‚Äù beat as the foundation for an in-the-pocket romp. The result is a shimmering balance of Afro-pop and American pop that‚Äôs clearly aimed at the dance-floor. And ‚ÄúFun City‚Äù hits the bulls-eye.