The DIY Ethos of Sean McVerry’s Death of the Golden Boy
If there’s one way I’d describe Sean McVerry’s debut album, Death of the Golden Boy, it’d be “personality.” What that personality entails cannot be described in such gnomic fashion.
Indeed, an album with little proper press, with its title announced shortly before hitting the public, is not conventional marketing. McVerry isn’t even listed on the Antifragile website. There’s no merch. It’s an approach that, coupled with the songs themselves, feels even more DIY than the back catalog.
The album itself is mixtapey, reminiscent of Mark Daly’s LP under the Ernest moniker. The track list is long, but there are a number of interludes and shorter tracks that bring the total run time to around 40 minutes. But, frankly, none of this really matters.
I’ve been following Sean since “the early days” of “Strangers”—a captivating, soulful track of grand piano and Korg Volca Beats (which I subsequently bought and never use). But elsewhere on the same EP, he delved into deeply-electronic driven sounds.
Since then, he’s toyed with disco, acoustic, and more. It’s blatantly obvious he’s not sticking to any particular formula. Each release feels a bit self-sufficient, and you’d be hard-pressed to claim any of it feels like a natural evolution of sound. McVerry seems to latch onto whatever flavor feels inspiring at the moment, even if it creates a somewhat-disparate catalog.
And that, arguably, is the prevailing mood on his debut LP. After all, song titles like “Life of the Goblin Boy” don’t exactly demand to be taken too seriously. It sort of feels like Sean was writing some songs, somehow stumbled into a label, and then didn’t care the label existed. Put Death of the Golden Boy up alongside other Antifragile releases and you’ll see what I mean.
But this anti-consumerist, “I don’t care” attitude is endearing, if not refreshing. The album is well-produced, and many tracks feel close to what he’s done for Tor Miller, so to call it “bedroom pop” doesn’t feel appropriate. Maybe DIY surf soul is better. It has a vintage flair—the use of tambourine, bass, and piano, paired with layered vocals (see “Constantly”) is classic McVerry. “Creature Comfort” feels more like his recent non-album singles. It’s this bridging-the-catalog approach that makes the album feels disjointed and anthological. “Up and Out” adds in brass, leaning deeper into the big band slant while adding new dimensions to McVerry’s sound.
McVerry has been known for his working producing other artists, but this seems to be the first time we really see behind the curtain on how much he brings to the table. Hints of Tor Miller’s American English are sprinkled throughout—a certain urban New York spirit is carefree and full of wonder.
Sean meanders through whatever he seems to want to say at the time—and the means and medium seem less important. Interludes abound. Goblins make a guest appearance. It’s a bit of a mosaic approach, with things arranged somewhat haphazardly. But it’s done so inoffensively.
Death of the Golden Boy is unabashedly playful and multi-dimensional. It’s DIY yet masterfully produced. Sean McVerry may not care too much about reaching the masses, but he doesn’t really cut corners. It’s an untampered, unpressured approach to songwriting that is refreshing and rare.