PillowTalk seem to have been making interesting, eclectic and experimental records for an age, so it is interesting to hear how their sound has matured and is sustained across this, their debut album.
Ever difficult to pigeon-hole PillowTalk are San Francisco three-piece Sammy D, Ryan Williams and Mikey Tello. They all bring an important element to the mix, with Sammy providing distinctive, soulful vocals, Williams guitars and keys, and Tello all that spacey synth work. The result is distinctive and yet incredibly versatile - at times cosmic and beautiful, at others gritty and soulful.
Je Ne Sais Quoi wears its heart on its sleeve and there are a slew of influences, whether subtle, painstakingly obvious or, as on The Night I Met Luther, deliberately called out. What is surprising is how well these various sounds work - an early high point is Devil's Run, a pure-Springsteen moment that is clearly influenced by the trio's final recording session in Portland, Oregon. Similarly, Slim's Night Out is a grimey take on vintage-Prince.
Yet there are also more original and innovative moments, like 4 Walls, a collaboration with DOP and Navid Izadi that focused on trying to create a track at 144 beats per minute that retains a soulful feel... And they effortlessly achieve it within a single 90-minute recording session.
With their focus on live instrumentation and experimentation in combination with soul PillowTalk operate in a fairly under-populated genre. At times Je Ne Sais Quoi feels like it takes a little too much time to reveal its charms - this is an album that is perhaps too varied, making the first few listens feel disjointed and confused... And yet most of the tracks here come into their own with a little space and time, whether they are the dreamy balladry of the extended Lullaby or the moody 80s electro-pop of Home Sick.
The sunny California closer The Outcast feels like an appropriate call to action - vocals asserting "You can't stop us now" just as the band are playing furthest from their home territory... And we wouldn't dream of proving them wrong.