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"Bodega" - Sleepy Gary | Review

I really needed a chilled track for the end of summer.

Sleep Gary transports us into a psychedelic indie pop space that feels like an orangey summer haze. I love a song that becomes my daily background music. The twangy groove has me dancing around the house as I go about my day. The song swims through space effortlessly. Put on your sunglasses and soak up the sun.

For years Sleepy felt a festering urge to upend his entire life, and one day the impulse overtook him with such desperate urgency that he had no choice but to act. He left his job, his city, his relationship, his band, his cantankerous 14-year-old Subaru. He sublet a small room in Bushwick and lugged his few earthly possessions — skateboard, tshirts, Microkorg — 200 miles north, into an apartment and a city of strangers.

Sleepy perched atop an unfamiliar bed, someone else’s crinkled sheets beneath him, and wrote about feeling isolated in a crowded place. As his new roommates slept, he sang softly, sleepily, into his phone, airdropped it to his laptop which was propped atop a makeshift desk, a keyboard stand topped by an old guitar case. (He later tried rerecording the vocals into an expensive microphone, but he was never able to recapture that tired, lonely, lo-fi sound — so the original late night recordings remained.)

He named the song, and based some of the lyrics, after his primary source of comfort during those early days of starting over: the hallowed bodegas of New York, the sacred 2 a.m. ritual of a chopped cheese and a ginger ale. Bodega is a song about letting go, about feeling uncool and invisible and like a permanent interloper, and the salvation of a late night snack in the city that never sleeps.

Sleepy Gary is the solo project of Daniel Feldman, a Brooklyn-based musician originally from Rockville, Maryland. His debut album, 21 Love Songs, is a colossal, three-volume collection many years in the making — incubated over seven years in DC, Baltimore, and New York. The album reached its culmination in 2020, when Feldman was quarantined in a 600 square foot Bushwick apartment with his music producer roommate, Gabriel Stanley of Isotopia Records. (The opus was co-produced by Stanley, mixed by Grammy-nominated Dave Weingarten, and mastered by Grammy-winning Alex DeTurk.)

Sleepy’s sound combines bedroom pop and psychedelic synth rock; think Tame Impala meets Rex Orange County. Each of the 21 songs offers a discrete ode to the many iterations of love: at turns unrequited, sensual, half hearted, budding, obsessive, and dearly departed. The album takes our standard notion of a love song and cracks it wide open in anthems like “Scooby Stacks,” an electrofunk missive yearning for the vibrancy of a pre-Covid New York, or “Knuckle Bleacher,” a break-up song with the police, written during the civil unrest precipitated by George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement. The album will be released one song at a time, every 21 days for over a year — an inventive plan sure to attract loyal fans.

This is certainly not Feldman’s first rodeo. For seven years he was the frontman for Yo No Say, a Baltimore-based indie rock band. He is also one-half of the pop-synth duo Airplane Man with his lifelong friend and creative partner, Tim Sommers. (Sommers, also known as One Love, is a songwriter for Warner Music Group, co-writing tracks for Madison Beer, Melanie Martinez, and most recently, Jennifer Lopez.) Airplane Man has proven to be a growing success in its own right, garnering positive reviews in Billboard, earning placement in major Spotify playlists like New Music Friday, and topping a million streams on individual tracks.

Feldman brings this experience as well as his technical acumen (polished as he pursued a music engineering degree at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County) to Sleepy Gary. The moment is ripe for an album like 21 Love Songs — as Sleepy says, “The world needs a whole shit ton of love songs right now” after all the darkness that enveloped the past year. Three volumes of love songs may be just the emotional antidote we need.

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