After straddling the line between dance music and indie rock on Just Movement, Robert DeLong’s second album sees him diving nose deep into deeper waters. In The Cards still keeps some rock elements, but drowns them in a sea of house, drum and bass and other electronic sub-genres. True to DeLong’s aims, he creates an individual world for each of the songs, setting up distinctive tracks that flow with each other to create something alive and astonishing.
The album is home to so many different identities that it’s difficult to even pinpoint proper standouts. Sellin’ U Somethin may be the album’s most ear-catching moment, mixing a pounding beat and sampled vocals into a rousing opening riff, with DeLong’s eventual vocals giving the song a swaggering attitude and a live piano in the pre-chorus giving it an almost sentimental feel. Acid Rain’s calm verses and lounge pop middle eight give it a dreamy pop atmosphere until the aggressively vibrating bass line comes in, giving what starts as a light bouncy song a darker mood.
The whiplash-inducing shifts of these songs hold make them stand out the most in the album, though the trip-hop stylings of Long Way Down, and the ridiculously catchy retro pop of Possessed are just as strong despite being a little more straight-forward. In fact, the album’s strongest point is also its most mundane: Future’s Right Here is, for all intents and purposes, a straight-up deep house track. The waver in DeLong’s voice and the twang in the bass guitar give it a real hook, carrying you until the guitar solo and chorus of synth melodies lead to the big send off, ending the song in a fittingly celebratory state.
Just Movement was an amazing album, but In The Cards is a whole other beast entirely. It amazingly pulls off every genre it targets no matter what way it goes, with the rock touches adding another layer to the package. DeLong is rapidly improving at what he does, with his unique sense of style helping to sell the package more than the quality of its contents alone could have. It’s made for one of the most exciting and engaging albums of the year.