Key Change

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Canadian producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Mocky treads further down path he forged on 2012's lounge-inspired Saskamodie with his fifth album, Key Change. Like Saskamodie, much of Key Change is instrumental, favoring jazz and soul influences over pop. Relocating from Berlin, where he'd spent the better part of a decade making his name as a solo artist and producing acts like Nikka Costa, Jamie Lidell, and Feist, Mocky set up camp in Los Angeles and immersed himself in the West Coast scene. Recorded, played, and sung almost entirely by himself, Key Change intentionally has the feel of a highly arranged jazz composer's album. Around the core instrumentation of piano, bass, drums, and classical guitar, he lovingly wraps flutes, congas, chimes, and breezy string sections courtesy of violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. The music is breezy and oftentimes lush with a romantic, rainy day moodiness that is accentuated by his hushed vocals on standout ballads like "Weather Any Storm" and the Chilly Gonzales-aided "Head in the Clouds." In spite of the meticulous arranging and self-production, Mocky sets a relaxed mood that is made more graceful by his willingness to allow occasional flaws. In the digital, self-contained studio world, it can be very easy to coax each note, rhythm, and sound into perfect alignment, a tendency that Mocky wisely avoids here. The human element lives on in Key Change, where flutes and whistles are ably played, but not pitch-corrected and drums sometimes fall behind the note. It's not messy, it's realistic. Talented as he is, do we expect Mocky to have truly mastered every instrument in his studio? That said, there is plenty of top-notch playing here from Mocky and his few collaborators. From the crafty bassline on "Tomorrow Maker" to the delicately shimmering strings on "When Paulie Gets Mad," this is an album full of imagination and warmth that was made to set a mood. By the time it winds down with the beautifully choral "Hymne (For Murka)," you can almost feel the early autumn leaves blowing gently down the street.

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