Cassettes Won’t Listen

Small-Time Machine

It’s easy to categorize bedroom bard Jason Drake as a melancholic recluse, his Brooklyn malaise chasing him into the arms of song. Drake’s latest release under the Cassettes Won’t Listen moniker wilts with self-pity and everyman despair. “The Finish Line” is a race around life’s hippodrome that ends with a photo-finish defeat (“The image says we didn’t win”). “Thought we could save the world,” Drake sighs in “The Broadcast.” “Right before it all ended.” Drake is tortured, but only by the evasive melodies caprioling through his head. What he does finally capture and commit to tape reveals an innate ability to dissolve lyrical bleakness with sound, as well as an affinity for plaything melodies. The levitating melody on “Large Radio” suggests an 8-bit video-game system. “Two Kids” details delinquency birthed from boredom, but the backdrop is a goofy, Aphex Twin-meets-New Order template. Small-Time Machine doesn’t re-imagine the pop/electronic alloy, but the array of ebullient, overdubbed pianos and synths, guitars rubbed with brambles, and plastic verve from the drumbeats guarantee that if Drake’s words become too much of a downer … well, you can always get up and dance.