To get signed to David Byrne’s Luaka Bop, an artist must attain a level of charming quirkiness. But “quirk” is a quality that, when taken too far—and it often is—can as easily eschew a band into generically unlistenable and commercially indie mediocrity. But the always astute ears of Luaka Bop have selected a treasure in New Jersey band Delicate Steve.
Made up a group of youngsters just old enough to toss their fake IDs and led by 23-year-old senior band member and multi-instrumental whiz Steve Marion (who records solo and plays live with a full band), Delicate Steve produces a mature yet fanciful sound. True, an air of whimsy surrounds it—previously released video for “Wondervisions” is a grainy reel of Marion playing a one-on-one basketball match against a Dirty Projector and the band was introduced via a 1500-word nonsensical press release—but Delicate Steve is not as dainty as its name suggests.
Wondervisions, its lyric-less debut full length, does not fall short on its abilities to stir emotion: the title track is a tranquil song with a dash of cheer, like drinking an Old Fashioned with good friends while a storm rages outside, and “The Ballad of Speck and Pebble” is a capricious jaunty cowpoke stomp. Delicate Steve’s musicianship is best shown in the single and Wondervisions‘ closer “Butterfly,” a warm, rolling drum-driven tune spewing joyous ash, which speaks a wordless universal language where vibrato melodies are sung by wailing guitars.