Ask anyone who was alive during the 1970s about disco, and you’ll probably get an eye roll, a smirk and a joke about Afros and cocaine. Disco has long been the black sheep in popular music; instead of evolving like rock and hip-hop, it has remained, more or less, the same dance-y, flamboyant beast. But it’s this consistency that reminds us why we love the genre even as we make Saturday Night Fever jokes: It’s an invitation to forget about our problems and surrender ourselves completely to brass and bass. And if musical escapism is the mission, then Brooklyn’s Escort certainly delivers on its debut LP, with a colorful, pulsing and, most importantly, strong set of throwback tunes.
Though Escort’s live show typically features an ensemble of 17, the production and construction of the songs are the work of two men: Eugene Cho and Dan Balis. They clearly know how to pick and choose from the diverse range of dance music to create a patchwork of the genre. The massive scope is evident not just across the LP but even within the confines of a single track. Take beach-side opener “Caméleon Chameleon.” You can hear everything from Motown brass to sunny Latin two-steps and even blips of LCD Soundsystem electro-funk, resulting in not merely a collision between the genres but a conversation.
And yet, there’s enough familiar material to keep things from making the uncomfortable shift from experimental to agitating. Lead singer Adeline Michele knows the importance of carrying a melody with just the right amount of flair, and her backup singers help such melodies to swell and pulsate in concert with the conga percussion and snaky synths. “A Sailboat In The Moonlight” strikes the perfect balance: A strong percussive backbone of drums and bongos maintains an infectious groove, with jazzy saxophone solos and reggae-inflected vocals adding to the jubilant atmosphere. Lyrically, Escort follows the disco tradition of keeping things upbeat. Aside from the tongue-in-cheek “Cocaine Blues,” most of the songs on this record reprise familiar disco tropes: dancing all night, finding love under the shimmering light, getting glammed up.
Critics might contend that bands like Escort are soulless, that like all other disco acts, they can’t connect with audiences aside from getting them to move their feet. But such criticisms miss the point entirely. By crafting a set of perhaps the best disco tunes to be heard in the new millennium, Escort is appealing to the primal in all of us, making us dance and reminding that movement is part of what makes us feel alive.