J*Davey knows what it’s like to be early to the party. The L.A. duo of producer Brook D’Leau and singer-songwriter Jack Davey made its debut a decade ago with a sound that drew from electro and new wave as much as it did hip-hop and pop. Back in the days of MySpace music discovery, the duo developed a cult following online and later signed a deal with Warner Bros. that would prove fruitless. After putting out a handful self-released EPs and a full-length, the duo stepped out of the spotlight. D’Leau became Miguel‘s musical director, while Davey lent her songwriting talents to the “Adorn” singer and other artists and became a mother. Now, in 2015, when genre-blurring eclecticism is almost de rigueur, Davey and D’Leau have returned from a three-year hiatus with POMP and a plan to reclaim their spot among R&B’s avant garde.
POMP, as its title implies, is intended to be a big deal. Thankfully, D’Leau and Davey’s return is a triumphant one, with an EP boasting a J*Davey sound that’s both refined and distilled down to its most potent elements of sex and synths — except now with a healthy dose of maturity and introspection.
The EP’s lead single, “Strong Anticipation,” exemplifies this distillation. “I’m in my tiny padded room with nothing left to discover / No way around the realization that we may need each other,” Davey sings, her voice as sultry as ever but tinged with longing and a hint of sadness. She might be pining for a lover, but it’s just as likely that she’s describing her time away from J*Davey and her own artistic endeavors. D’Leau complements her emotive singing with a dance-floor-ready, four-on-the-floor rhythm made bright by synth flourishes. The result is dope enough for DJs to play at parties, but also deep enough for solitary headphone consumption. In “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda,” we get another taste of the wiser Jack Davey as she meditates on temptation and consequence: “All dark hearts go wild in the night / Runnin’ for the wrong like it could be somethin’ right / What we do in private very soon may come to light / Devil’s on your shoulder, but you can’t put up a fight.” In her estimation, sinning is sweet, but karma is inescapable.
None of this reflection means that J*Davey has gotten any less indulgent. “LIBIDO” is a playful ode to carnal delights, with Davey crooning about hard days made better by satisfying nights. “You can be the lock, I’ll be the key,” she offers through a pitched-down refrain, resolute in her seduction. Matters go from lusty to romantic in “For Love,” where electric guitar sets the mood for a boy-and-girl-against-the-world love story.
On POMP, D’Leau and Davey not only stand alongside a new crop of innovative R&B artists, but also stand out from the pack. Maybe being early to the party isn’t so bad after all.