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The oddball aesthetic of Delicate Steve

Delicate Steve’s song “Redeemer,” from the new Positive Force, is an original, but it sounds like an oddball cover version of the instrumental theme song from some forgotten 1980s TV drama (I’m thinking Hill Street Blues or L.A. Law) with the central melody played on a nasally sounding guitar.

Yes, a nasally sounding guitar. I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I heard it. Steve Marion plays his guitar like it is the vocalist in his band. (He does have a good band on tour, but he reportedly played almost all the parts on Positive Force himself.) Actual human voices show up only occasionally, and always in the role of backup. At the same time, almost every song has something like a recognizable verse and chorus, and they are always “sung” by the guitar. According to his friend, famous rock writer Michael Azerrad, Delicate Steve’s guitar on “Tallest Heights” is doing an imitation of Michael Jackson’s singing style. On another track, he’s imitating Miles Davis’s horn.

Oh, and another thing about famous friends: Delicate Steve has a lot of them, apparently. He’s connected somehow with many notable figures in New York’s indie-rock avant-garde, from Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo to Dirty Projectors.

In some ways, Positive Force is very much of a piece with other music coming out of the capitals of hipsterdom these days: it has vaguely African-sounding rhythms (Dirty Projectors, Vampire Weekend), a retro kind of guitar heroism (Fang Island), and an unironic fondness for early ’80s lite-rock (Phoenix and whoever is on the soundtrack to the movie Drive). But Delicate Steve has an upbeat vibe and oddball aesthetic that are all his own.

DELICATE STEVE: Soda Bar, Sunday, November 25, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $8 advance/$10 door.

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Delicate Steve’s song “Redeemer,” from the new Positive Force, is an original, but it sounds like an oddball cover version of the instrumental theme song from some forgotten 1980s TV drama (I’m thinking Hill Street Blues or L.A. Law) with the central melody played on a nasally sounding guitar.

Yes, a nasally sounding guitar. I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I heard it. Steve Marion plays his guitar like it is the vocalist in his band. (He does have a good band on tour, but he reportedly played almost all the parts on Positive Force himself.) Actual human voices show up only occasionally, and always in the role of backup. At the same time, almost every song has something like a recognizable verse and chorus, and they are always “sung” by the guitar. According to his friend, famous rock writer Michael Azerrad, Delicate Steve’s guitar on “Tallest Heights” is doing an imitation of Michael Jackson’s singing style. On another track, he’s imitating Miles Davis’s horn.

Oh, and another thing about famous friends: Delicate Steve has a lot of them, apparently. He’s connected somehow with many notable figures in New York’s indie-rock avant-garde, from Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo to Dirty Projectors.

In some ways, Positive Force is very much of a piece with other music coming out of the capitals of hipsterdom these days: it has vaguely African-sounding rhythms (Dirty Projectors, Vampire Weekend), a retro kind of guitar heroism (Fang Island), and an unironic fondness for early ’80s lite-rock (Phoenix and whoever is on the soundtrack to the movie Drive). But Delicate Steve has an upbeat vibe and oddball aesthetic that are all his own.

DELICATE STEVE: Soda Bar, Sunday, November 25, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $8 advance/$10 door.

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