The Marble Tea – Fantastic Day EP
Carefree, honest and catchy lo-fidelity indie-pop songs.
You can split most eclectic indie-folk into two categories: the scripted, co-opted, packaged version and the authentic. Knight Berman Jr.’s recent EP release Fantastic Day falls under the latter heading. Berman is the one-man music whiz behind The Marble Tea, which brought me a greater respect for this tight, little EP. Listening to its compact collection of pop tunes gave me hope that a singer-songwriter who writes unpretentiously about real life could still exist.
Initially, Fantastic Day’s five songs seemed to be Berman’s first foray into the recorded music realm; repeated listens changed my mind. The songs on this album are tightly constructed; sound levels are well mixed and mastered; the vocals—although not your average pop-vocal— never flinch or crack. I began to see the album more as a well-crafted, eclectic pop offering than an amateur’s first crack at songwriting. I researched Berman’s discography and found that he seems to prefer EPs to full-lengths. Fantastic Day is his sixth release in as many years, fourth EP and second EP of 2006! Suffice to say, Berman is a prolific songwriter with a penchant for nostalgia.
One songwriting aspect where Berman shines is his ability to infuse meaning into what many might consider trivial or mundane. In “Say Goodbye,” Berman breathlessly sings the lines: “Say goodbye to the couch you used to rip apart / say goodbye to the pantry where you slept / say goodbye to ceilings high above your head / say goodbye say goodbye,” referring not to some emo-stained relationship, but the simple experience of moving. He reassures, “And I will understand if I find you in the covers / and I’ll understand if you’re under the bed / I’ll understand if you’re hiding in the closet.” I couldn’t help but believe Berman’s unabashed sincerity. He turns a blind eye to the emotional pretension and objective distance many songwriters exhibit, describing real life from sometimes unusual, always engaging perspectives.
“Fantastic Day,” the album’s most catchy and prominent track, could have been ripped from a lost Monkees B-side. Berman rejoices in a day seemingly plucked straight out of an episode of “Leave it to Beaver.” An easy, electrified acoustic guitar and two alternating synthesizers accompanied by a twiddling bass-line are backed by Berman’s rich, bassy, deadpan tone. His voice sounds like a scrubbed-up Leonard Cohen’s. The foot-tapping melody is contagious the way pop used to be; lo-fi enough to be eclectic.
I’m hesitant to say this was a great EP. I wanted to hear more songs like “Fantastic Day” and “How Does It Feel?” They are pure 60’s bubble-gum pop indie-fied, sealed in a time-capsule and left unearthed until today. They stuck with me where the others fell short. Although Berman dabbles with his style on Fantastic Day, I’d be more apt to buy a full-length brimming with songs such as these two; the others are good in and of themselves, but none captures that stand-alone, distinct indie-pop sound as well as “Fantastic Day,” and “How Does It Feel?”
-Timothy C. Avery