Posted on22 April 2013.
Having worked for The Maine Campus in one capacity or another for the past three years, it has been interesting to see what former co-workers have done after they?ve graduated. Most have gone on to write for various publications across the country, while others have gone in unexpected directions.
Kegan Zema ? former Maine Campus editor of Style & Culture, whose post I took over in 2011 ? falls in the latter category. Last I heard, he told me he was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., ?basically running this ice cream store, this vegan ice cream store.?
He always had a keen interest in anything music, performing and recording under various names over the past few years ? more than I?ve been able to keep track of.
A couple of weeks ago, Zema posted a link to a music video for a song he recorded as Dessert Lips, called ?Looking Good, Feeling Good.? The new release is a complete, surprising departure from the last thing I had heard from Zema, which were a couple of bass-heavy post-punk songs he released under the name Journalism.
In the first few seconds of the video for ?Looking Good, Feeling Good,? a thumping bass drum and low-end synth score a dark scene of flashing lights, alternately revealing and obscuring different angles of Zema?s black sunglasses-covered face.
Since he?s always had a great sense of humor, hearing Zema sing about ?designer clothes? and ?designer girls? made me wonder how thick a layer of irony he laid on the song. But if the track was meant to be laughed off as an elaborate joke, he put way too much effort into it. He ended up with a pretty good tune ? it?s catchy, and the lyrics are fun and easy for singing along ? but there?s enough variety and substance for ?Looking Good, Feeling Good? to be more than a party-rocking anthem, though it could serve that purpose as well.
A few days ago, Zema sent me an email asking for feedback on his debut mixtape as Dessert Lips ? which shares the name of the aforementioned song. The release features an extended version of ?Looking Good, Feeling Good,? as well as three other tracks.
The rest of the mixtape is an interesting venture into electronic pop with each track branching out in a different direction.
It?s hard to ignore the parallels between opening track ?Me, U and the Dance Floor? and the recent work of the Gorillaz: A simple-but-enchanting synth line is the thread that holds the song together, while Zema?s easy-to-grasp lyrics and Damon Albarn-like delivery make it easy to envision the song being played by a group of animated, ape-like musicians.
?Can I Join Your Synthesizer Band? comes off as kitchy, propelled forward by drums that may have been taken from one of those older household organs and lyrics that are like those of Zooey Deschanel?s oddball band in ?Yes Man.? That said, the guitar solo and sense of urgency that close out the song give the tune a sense of direction.
Closing out the mixtape is ?The Young and the Useless,? an Alphaville-like ballad that could have scored the school dance scene in ?Napoleon Dynamite? if the band the school hired was Hellogoodbye circa 2006. Pedro and Deb would have had to awkwardly transition from slow to fast dancing when the song picks up toward the middle and concludes in an energetic lament about ?looking for a love that can keep me alive.?
The initial cheesiness of the mixtape makes it easy to write this release off as another series of 1?s and 0?s clogging up the tubes of the Interwebs; but dig past the throwback gloss, and there is substance.
The only other feedback I have for Zema is this: Keep on keepin? on, but let?s go with fewer credit card butt-swipes in the next music video.