Earlier this month GUM dropped his fourth LP titled The Underdog, an immersive insight into “a day in the life of GUM.” For anyone unaware, GUM is the solo project of Jay Watson from Tame Impala and Pond.
My favourite part of this album is the range of emotions it’s able to impart on you. The LP plays like the three-act structure of a film. Act one setting up anticipation as the energy builds from Introduction to The Underdog and reaching a fever pitch with the dancey anthem S.I.A. This leading to a crisis of anxiety and introspection in Act two with dreamy self reflective songs Serotonin, After All (From the Sun), Rehearsed In A Dream and Couldn’t See Past My Ego. Ending with positive upbeat conclusion in act three with the ever-catchy upbeat tune The Blue Marble, the bangin’ Trying My Best and funky groove The Fear. This narrative was made to reflect Jay’s life on tour with Tame Impala and Pond, the anticipation before a show, the rush of playing a show, the “douche chills” feeling of anxiety the next day and the rush of knowing he’s got to get ready and do it all again. It’s this cyclical nature of the record that in my opinion makes it so listenable. The end flows perfectly into the beginning, making it’s perfect for multiple-listens.
For the reasons I’ve just listed The Underdog is definitely one of those albums you should hear in its entirety to get the most out of it. That said, the versatility of this record means you can listen to it when you’re in any mood.
The title track has a funky palette of instruments and melodies, the horns and backing vocals give it a great cinematic quality. It’s full of complementary elements, whether it’s the call and response between Jay’s vocals and the bassline or the upbeat groove meeting a hint of melancholia that definitely foreshadows later tracks in the album.
Listening to the album I loved closing my eyes and losing myself in the lush soundscapes of Serotonin and Rehearsed In A Dream. Every track on the LP is packed with layers of sounds and melodies but most of them wash over me and blend together because they’re moving too quickly for me to hear every detail which keeps the songs interesting. But in Serotonin and Rehearsed In A Dream I found myself hanging on to every note of the silky smooth synths and airy drums.
As much as the album plays with emotion, bringing you up and down I found After All (From The Sun) to be just as dynamic. You could cut one part of the song to score Lost in Translation, another for Yellow Submarine and another for John Carpenter’s The Thing.
While I’m on the topic of film scores the penultimate track Trying My Best caught me by surprise with how truly epic it felt. The song slowly builds with a thumping synth bassline, swelling into a grand spectacle of synth arpeggios. It reminded me a ton of my two favourite scores from this decade, Kavinsky’s songs on the Drive soundtrack and Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack.
The Underdog has been one of my favourite releases of the year and is a hot contender for number one.