British multi-instrumentalist Tom Vek scored a modest hit in 2005 with his debut album, We Have Sound. Critical acclaim, guest television appearances, and some headlining tours followed as Vek seemed poised to take the musical world by storm. Then, a funny thing happened: Vek pulled his best Dave Chappelle and disappeared from sight right at the height of his popularity. Perhaps not the most financially sound move, but the time away from the spotlight allowed Vek to work towards some personal goals geared towards building a studio, outfitting arrangements, and trying out material for the long-awaited follow-up. What results is Leisure Seizure, a mixed bag of twitchy, nervy pop music that contains quite a few gems but also a few duds.
Vek’s voice is a love-it or hate-it proposition that anchors each track. If you’re a fan, then you’ll hear traces of Beck and Television’s Tom Verlaine. If Vek’s intro verses to album opener, “Hold Your Hand” ring dull, then you’re more likely to negatively compare his lethargic baritone to someone not as venerated, like say Cake frontman John McCrea. Whatever the case, Vek’s voice is present throughout, sometimes leading a surge as in the pulsating kiss-off, “A Chore” and the slacker anthem, “We Do Nothing”. Other times, his voice is a bit of a drag weighing down the proceedings and sapping the energy that has been built up; the unfortunately titled and appropriately cheesy, “A.P.O.L.O.G.Y.” and the Eighties’ synthed, “Close Mic’ed” being prime examples. In these cases and a few others on the album, Vek tries a bit too much to be significant; he works best when he ties his lyrics to beats and rhythms and lets them do the work. He sounds strongest when his songs are arranged in the vein of dance/rock icons The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, evoking a club appeal where the message of the song takes a backseat to the sound and vibe.
Vek is still young, but the six-year gap between releases raises flags about his long-term growth and development as an artist. Leisure Seizure offers much to get excited about and a great deal of potential from which to build. However, there is just as much material to skip over, which on the other hand raises concerns about Vek’s DIY mentality. A little more collaboration and less independence may be a good thing for Vek going forward. Allowing more ideas into the mix and perhaps some external motivation may keep Vek’s name relevant and give listeners the chance to hear new material before 2017.