Cinematically stylized from the second we press play to the very moment that its gorgeous sonic ribbonry retreats into darkness, Derrick Davis’ Anti-Social is nothing short of a thrill ride for any devout music fan sick of the trite recycled beats plaguing their FM dial. In the seductive “Clark Kent,” Davis’ voice takes on a transcendent radiance that carries us right into the dirge in “End of Days” and eventually to the jazz sway of “Hunter.” He’s firing on all cylinders even in this record’s most astonishingly emotional moments, and giving us plenty of reasons to believe that he is in fact at the very forefront of modern American pop music.
Let’s start off by breaking down these instrumental arrangements. In “All I Need to Know” and “Livin,” Davis gets really complex with the rhythm, challenging us to keep up with his mathy time signatures and enthralling grooves that don’t slow down once they get started. He uses somewhat similarly violent structures in “Blow Song” and “Light it Up,” but shies away from ambient indulgences that would have given Anti-Social more of a post-rock feel (especially when you factor in the tension within these string parts). Davis has never let his hair down like he does here, and to be fair, he sounds more relaxed and in his element than ever before.
“Carry Me,” “End of Days” and “Best I Can” have an underlying emotionality that is raw and unaffected by the neatly-packaged production of the record, but they don’t even slightly interrupt the pace of the album as a whole. I think that “End of Days” could be the most intimate track Davis has ever penned, but at the same time, I pick up the same degree of passion in the Stevie Wonder-esque hook that brings down the house in “Best I Can.” He’s being personable with us here, but never self-serving or egocentric.
The instrumental play, in every instance, is supremely focused in Anti-Social, and not nearly as robotic or predictably artificial as some of the more underachieving records we’ve heard out of the Austin scene recently. The gun-slinging riffs of “All I Need to Know,” “Blow Song” and “Livin” are more than enough for me to deem Derrick Davis a soulful songwriter who is no longer searching for his place in the hierarchy of alternative music, but he doesn’t stop there. Every song here is a juggernaut, and in this disheveled chapter of pop’s storied history, that’s not as standard in new records as it once was.
There is so much to love about this LP, but in my opinion, its lack of frills has got to be the biggest reason for rock fans to score a copy of it this March. Anti-Social is very to the point and efficient, but it doesn’t underwhelm us with its surreal, dashing content. Derrick Davis is on top of the world right now and clearly nowhere near finished in sharing his musical story with us, and if this is the caliber of content that we can expect out of him in the future, then you’d better believe that I’ll be following his odyssey step by step from here on out.