Eternally chill crooner David Speck channels dreamy nostalgia in Part Time’s suave new sophomore effort, PDA. A soundtrack of spacey synths, lonely pop melodies, and an all-over glistening vintage vibe cast Speck as the lead in his own 1980s B movie– Ray Bans not included. What sets PDA apart from other blast-from-the-past 80s acts, though, is Speck’s signature tacky take on revivalism; he injects the sort of humor and whimsy into his music that contemporaries like Chromatics and Twin Shadow seem to lack. I mean, the big hair, the bangle bracelets, the neon everything; let’s not forget that the 80s were a thoroughly cheesy time period, no matter how great Ryan Gosling may look in that scorpion jacket.
Consider PDA a concept album; that is, if you consider a silly, sexy, straight-up funky attitude to be a concept. But not all tracks are meant to be joke material. Opener “I Want To Go” is a truly dreamy album introduction, courtesy of gentle, toe-tapping rhythms. “How Do I Move On?” is pure melancholy pop reared on a diet of early Smiths, while title track “PDA” shifts gears entirely, offering up quick, satisfying slices of slick electro beats.
Later, things take a bizarre twist, as PDA suddenly turns on its head completely. “Living in the U.S.A.” is an eccentric outsider anthem peppered with sassy drum machines, and “Soñando De Ti” (“Dreaming of You”) is a schmaltzy romance ballad sung entirely in eighth-grade level Spanish (admittedly, the ultra-smooth saxophone is a nice touch). Still, “Funny Moods” takes the cake, thanks to its heavy piano, wacky accented singing, cartoon samples (?) and more head-scratching sonic moments than you’ve heard all year.
Through fifteen tracks, PDA takes its listener up, down, and around again; though the ride is always enjoyable, it’s also a bit aimless. Often, it’s unclear what Speck is trying to do here, beyond the obvious Reagan-era romance theme. Of course, it’s also clear that Speck wishes tracks like “Night Drive” could have made it onto the Drive soundtrack, because with a name like that, could he even hide it? For better or worse, though, he isn’t Johnny Jewel, and PDA is a nostalgia trip in its own right. Eccentricities abound on the album, but so do some near-perfect highlights that make the whole journey ultimately worthwhile.