Last weekend, I took a trip up and across Michigan from my home in Detroit to the Leelanau Peninsula, famous among midwesterners as our very own wine country. Leelanau sits on the 45th parallel north, the same line of latitude that passes through other wine havens, like Bordeaux, France and Salem, Oregon. The latter is the home of foamboy, and as I sipped and looked over Lake Michigan I attempted to access whatever it is that makes the air of the 45th so special—that secret ingredient that makes grapes grow and gives foamboy their je ne sais quoi. And while My Tipsy Listen of My Sober Daydream didn’t spawn any sweeping geographical revelations, I can say with certainty that the music made the wine taste better and the October colors look brighter. foamboy’s debut is elevated background music, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment.
My Sober Daydream is full of songs that have the potential to enhance your cultural cred at a dinner party without scaring off your guests. It is progressive without pretension, avant garde with honesty. The closest analogue, no pun intended, is a Stereolab record; Katy Ohsiek often takes on the disaffected timbre of Lætitia Sadier as she hovers over the busy synths and drum loops of Wil Bakula’s arrangements. But foamboy takes their influences and envelops them in the zeitgeist, namely that jazzy lo-fi that has captivated J Dilla and MF Doom fans for decades (and younger internet people for the last several years).
“Better” starts things off with a tease of simmering psychedelia before launching into an indictment of shallow well-wishes from non-depressed folks, set to a bouncy funk that channels Orange-era Frank Ocean. It really comes alive in the coda; I feel like I finally know what was playing in Bill Hader’s head in the opening scene of Pineapple Express. “Read Your Mind” struts through resigned lyrics like “I don’t want to get over you/but that’s the only thing left to do.” Ohsiek has a wonderful ability to sound both earnest and exasperated in almost every register of their impressive range. “Laundry” is truly evocative of a cartoon laundromat, all spinning synths and bubbling bass, but there is a rich groove to the track that almost convinces you that laundromats are sexy (especially if you’ve only seen them on TV).
The album hits its stride with the potent combination of “Hate Me Too” and “Peach Smoothie.” The first is hallmarked by a puzzling rhythm that is tough to clap along to but very easy to vibe with, self-assured and funky as all hell. “Peach Smoothie” is more straightforward, a chill house track that feels warm and alive, constantly in motion. The drums are jacked up, the bass is toned down, and the synths flit in and out like birds in an open aviary.
“Stay Up All Night” glides on a glitchy Flylo-esque beat, with a soaring melody that swells with doubled vocals, brass and piano. The instruments assembled by Wil Bakula are richer than the samples that hallmark similar tracks, imbuing the song (and subsequent single “Logout”) with a sunny and unexpected vitality at odds with the foamboy’s pensive lyrics.
Closer “Backseat’ is a woozy stunner, maracas and tambourine hissing like rattlesnakes, vocals filtered into icy cirrus textures. Tempo and key shifts keep you guessing throughout, flowing from movement to movement like a King Crimson track. Unlike King Crimson, “Backseat” is grounded, relatable and consistently pleasant to listen to. This very good track is elevated to greatness through some of my favorite lyrics I’ve heard this year, aphorisms that Katy produces as effortlessly as breathing. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Head outside for a smoke/Yeah, that’s glamour, that’s what I want for myself/but my church girl habits won’t allow it.”
“I’m eighteen in a widow’s body/making good choices.”
“Staring down twenty-three/wore my sleep mask to work/only been here a year/fifty hands on my shoulder/assure me I’m still young.”
And while the musical career of this partnership is, objectively, “still young”, their debut is startlingly mature, full of empathetic and existential musings, and absolutely gorgeous.