A term being thrown around casually and far too often is “basic bitch”. The urban dictionary provides definitions of the basic bitch that are colourful to say the least. They describe the basic bitch as a girl whose favourite artists include Coldplay and Adele, favourite movie is The Notebook and is known to quote things like “If you don’t love me at my best, you don’t deserve me at my worst.” The stereotypical, shallow, 22 year old white girl. While no one likes to think of themselves as one, I’ll admit I have some basic bitch qualities. I don’t mind a selfie. I own a Sportsgirl yoga mat. I adore Coldplay. But I have never felt more like a basic bitch than listening to Daniel McBride aka Sheep Dog & Wolf on his debut record Egospect.
Comparison’s are being drawn already between the 20 year old New Zealander and Bon Iver and Surfjan Stevens. He is certainly a visionary, and has talent running through his veins with the instrumentalist mastering an impressive array of instruments and playing each and every one for this experimental pop, bedroom recording. But his instrumentation, creativity and talent are the only things leaving a good impression on me because as far as the songs themselves go, I just don’t get them. I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, as McBride is already being hailed for Egospect but I honestly just don’t get it.
Where others have described Sheep, Dog & Wolf’s approach as dense, unusual and quirky, I hear confusing, unsettling and messy. The opening track Breathe with it’s erratic percussion is nothing short of hard to listen to, with it’s only redeeming quality it’s vocal harmonisation, which McBride absolutely nails. This is mirrored in Fades and again in Not Aquatic, with it’s bluesy, New Orleans vibe in the opening vocal quickly ruined by the mess of the instrumentation.
The tracks that worked the most for me were, unsurprisingly, the most simple in instrumentation.. Problems/Canvas was nice enough, Nothing, Probably has a pretty melody in the strings while Ablutophobia (which is a fear of washing or bathing – yuck), made the most sense with its repeated melody and memorable vocal. Lead single Glare settles in to a rather cool sound, but is for the most part much of the same.
There is no doubt that McBride is an incredible talent, and at such a young age he is only getting started, but Egospect to me sounds less like an emerging visionary of a new sound and more like a group of kids in music class banging away at their instruments. There are hints of potential with flashes of lovely melodies and an incredible ear for harmony, but for this basic bitch it was just not enjoyable to listen to. Not for lack of trying, but I could not get a grasp on it. If McBride is to reach the masses he’ll have to reign it in. And maybe he’s not interested in that. I hate to suggest “commercialising” something so different, but I fear his talent will fall on deaf ears and be completely lost if he doesn’t.