By now, almost everyone knows the story. A high school kid introduces himself to his favorite DJ at a party, which leads to record shopping in Texas, which leads to interning for Stones Throw Records, which leads to getting signed by Peanut Butter Wolf. It’s an underdog storybook tale of sorts, but when you listen to the music of James Pants, you realize that this couldn’t happen to someone more deserving. A twenty-something from Spokane, WA, he represents that good natured soul you keep rooting for to win. James is that friend of yours that you wish you saw more of, the person you talk with for hours about music and who never fails to leave your sides aching from laughing so damn hard. Okay, maybe that portrait’s too idealistic, but he seems to fit said outline entirely too well.
One thing’s for sure: the kid’s incredibly talented. On his debut album Welcome, James plays guitar, keyboards and drums, singing on most of the songs. Styles get flipped like campaign promises, including disco, new wave, electro, and 80s-era soul. Flirtations with hip-hop reveal themselves on the robot-voiced “Cosmic Rapp” and the slap bass funk of “Good Things”, a song which singlehandedly justifies the need for extended mixes. Psychedelic inspiration transforms James into a next generation Bruce Haack on “My Tree”, only to rock out on “My Girl” or go synth-pop on “Finger On The Knife”. His most inspired moments on the album seem to involve collaborator Deon Davis, who lends his vocals to the electro soul favorite “Ka$h” and “Crystal Lite”. There’s something to be said for a singer who can croon a line like “Don’t you wanna put diamond cubes in your lemonade?” and actually sound convincing doing so.
Maybe the key to James Pants’ success is keeping a sense of humor. For all of the talent exposed on Welcome, things never get too serious, always remaining playful and spontaneous. His videos take this same philosophy to a heightened scale. For “Do A Couple Of Things”, James is shown running top speed through the streets (ala Ferris Bueller) to get to an Arabian Prince gig. Along the way, he stops and shares a submarine sandwich with a friendly girl. The video for “Cosmic Rapp” takes a turn towards the bizarre, with James as an Egyptian robot dining on dim sum, freezing Peanut Butter Wolf with his ray gun, and blinding the person next to him at the urinal with his glowing phallus, while relieving himself.
How could you not want this guy to win? The beautiful part is that James Pants is just getting started. One can only imagine what the next album will bring.