Robert Delong's 2013 debut, Just Movement, was a kaleidoscopic electronic dance-pop production showcasing his unique use of MIDI interfaces, keyboards, and sundry electronic and live instrumentation. That the Los Angeles-based DeLong's songs were both lyrically thoughtful and often catchy helped make it one of the unexpectedly welcome releases of the year. His follow-up, 2015's In the Cards, is a somewhat slicker, if no less thoughtful album, with plenty of hooky moments. Featuring production from Jesse Shatkin (Sia, Foster the People, Ellie Goulding), Emanuel "Eman" Kiriakou (Celine Dion, Demi Lovato, Yelawolf), and others, In the Cards, still displays DeLong's talent for bringing together an array of electronic, acoustic, and electric instruments, albeit in a less kitchen-sink fashion. Cuts like "Jealousy" and "Don't Wait Up for Me," with their '80s new wave-influenced, synth-heavy style, bring to mind a mix of Frankmusik and Fall Out Boy. It's a move that comes off as sophisticated and mature rather than too commercial, and allows for more focus on DeLong's talent as a songwriter. Kicking off with a short, ambiently airy title track that utilizes the reading of Tarot cards to introduce the album's overarching theme concerning the complexities of finding meaning in our seemingly random existence, In the Cards reveals a more introspective, somewhat downbeat DeLong. Whether weighed down by relationship woes, spiritual questions, or both, as on the languidly dramatic "That's What We Call Love," in which he sings "You heard the words of the pastor as he was praying to god, but you don't know who he's calling," DeLong fills his songs with poetic, often dichotomous, existential thoughts. However, rather than take a cynical stance, DeLong seems to have a pragmatically balanced view of the world. Even when he's taking on haters sniping at him from the sidelines, as he does on the hip-hop-inflected "Long Way Down," he remains confident. He sings, "You've been slinging your anecdotes/I've been fucking around while you were saving the world...from nothing." Thankfully, even when he's tackling complex emotions, DeLong never forgets to keep his songs hip-swayingly straightforward and melodically memorable.
In the Cards
(CD - Liberator Music #LIB180CD)
Review by Matt Collar