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Yeo : Bag-O-Items

From its cutesy hand-drawn artwork depicting banjos, prescription frames and cassettes (remember them?), you'd be forgiven for thinking that Yeo was a four-track aided indie kid, a theory further strengthened by his background as a bedroom boffin with a string of independent releases to his name. As soon as you're a few bars deep into the opening Hey Mr Sound Man, it's clear that this is sophisticated DIY funk, complete with lithe guitar licks, bizarre wordplay and casual swearing making Yeo a one-man Prince act. Much like the infamous Purple One in his youth, Yeo Cheong has played and arranged every note on Bag-O-Items himself: a true solo artist who not only writes his songs, but crafts them. This may not be much of a surprise with those familiar with his first mini-album Trouble Being Yourself, which mixed an equally indie spirit with the visionary funk of N.E.R.D., but Bag-O-Items takes that unique polish to another level.

 

Stupid Ideals is a hugely satisfying blend of scurrying guitar, squelching bass and processed drum beats so laidback they positively recline. It quickly establishes Yeo's impressive recording technique, in particular the way his velvety vocals are deftly threaded throughout. The Weight I Pulled follows, its dramatic string stabs riding a powerful drum break ahead of bursting into a big showy chorus with Yeo's vocals flipping into falsetto, making for the kind of pop song that Maroon 5 would kill for. Justin Timberlake would be equally jealous for the slinky r'n'b of Good Food, Music & Love. Beginning with stuttered bass and another shuffled rhythm, while lyrically listing recipe ingredients with all the salacious delivery of describing sex positions. Its jazzy inflections almost sound like Jamie Cullum, albeit pumped with a serious dose of libido.

 

It's not all cheeky lyrical references though, Big Heart demonstrates a defiant optimism with Yeo retorting over a snappy groove "you can't stop me from living my dream / I know it'll piss you off / And it'll get me off;" then diving headlong into a rush of exuberant guitar paired with the bright refrain of "don't sweat the small stuff little guy."

 

The closing Made In Voyage rounds out a wildly accomplished set, building from an anxious electro-rock groove then shifting abruptly to the tinny sound of a lone vocal and acoustic guitar before exploding back into a technicolour wail of "take it all." Hitting its peak with the steady build of crashing drums, bouncing keys and then rising squiggles of arpeggiated synth, it's almost a world away from the sly funk that opened the album, but it's executed with an equal level of skill.

 

Bag-O-Items isn't perfect, it's nobly (if-impossibly) aiming for a glossy sheen only achievable with cutting edge studios powered by record label's multi-millions. But you can feel every ounce of rough passion that went into its selection of homemade soul-pop: better yet, Yeo's enthusiasm and skill breathes a life and charm into his domestic creations that no amount of money can buy.

Best Track: Good Food, Music & Love If You Like These,

You’ll Like This: Fly Or Die NERD, Controversy PRINCE

In A Word: DIY FTW

Label: Other Tongues 2011 AL NEWSTEAD