S’ is a band named for all of those grammar enthusiasts out there – yes, it’s actually pronounced “s-apostrophe.” Made up of pensive hipsters, the Ann Arbor-bred band performs well beyond expectations on its carefully orchestrated debut album, I was Born At the Dollar Store.
With a distinctively jazzy vibe, S’ distances itself from the typical indie-pop rock template. Throughout the album, the band’s sound mirrors a mellower version of Home IV, a collaboration between Spoon frontman Britt Daniel and Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst. Both albums use simple-yet-pleasant piano and guitar melodies, along with somewhat-angsty vocals. The frequent addition of soothing saxophone on several tracks gives the album a distinctive personality.
Vocalist BK’s lyrics explore a variety of tropes and paradoxes. The title track deals with everything from coffee and hypocritical vegetarians to broken glass. “Rolling Along” explores the emptiness of consumerism, namely that of the radio industry: “We can’t control the static / That comes from the sky / We’re overwhelmed by signals that never die / Away, they saturate all the ground.”
But S’ is most inspired on tracks like the more upbeat “Yellow Fever!” which strangely pairs the melancholy of feeling like an outsider with a feel-good rock beat reminiscent of Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.” The upbeat instrumentals are an unexpected contrast to the downbeat lyrics.
One peculiar eccentricity of the band is that the members don’t disclose their actual names. They’ve created the nicknames Benny P, BK, Sphere and Professor Sol Solomon. The group has played together in various forms for close to 10 years.
was Born at the Dollar Store explores perspectives, both humorous and serious, with a touch of cynicism and feel-good moments. When life gets woeful for listeners, this album will simultaneously relate and cheer them up. It can’t hurt for any disheartened soul to give this worthy local band a listen.