Listen: White Life, “I Don’t Wanna Have To Make You Love Me”
Jonathan Ehrens wears many hats, whether fronting the eccentric Baltimore trio the Art Department or making lo-fi solo recordings as Repelican. But his latest and perhaps most exciting project to date, a skewed take on synth-pop with vocals by his sister Emily Ehrens, is the debut album by White Life, due out May 5th on Ehse Records (with a release party that night at the Soft House).
White Life songs often offer chintzy, almost campy vestiges of the ’80s pop and R&B that influenced the project, from the slap bass on “Time Is Wasting” to the quasi-rap staccato vocals of “Flirp.” But the album never feels too much like a tongue-in-cheek retro indulgence, partly because the Ehrens siblings both sing their asses off, and partly because Jonathan leaves so much of his own unique musical sensibility embedded in the sound, including a snaky guitar line on “Second Look” that could be right out of an Art Department song.
White Life’s combination of homage and originality collides most perfectly on “I Don’t Wanna Have To Make You Love Me,” which concludes with a saxophone solo by Teeth Mountain’s Andrew Bernstein that starts out melodic and mournful, like Clarence Clemons on a Springsteen synth ballad, but gradually turns skronky and dischordant.