Locnville’s legacy up until now has always been “Sun in My Pocket” – the cheesy electro-pop single that saw the twins donning wife-beaters, flat-caps and wandering around what could loosely be described as a Friday night in Rondebosch. The contrived attempt at a chorus of “I’ve got the sun in my pocket and the moon in my hands” always rings through my ears when I hear Locnville mentioned. The release of the debut album Sun In My Pocket (or Retro Electric if you were ahead of the physical release) cemented their position as a formidable South African pop act. However, this position came with an expectation to maintain the bubbly and whimsical appearance they had created with “Sun in My Pocket” – an expectation that Locnville has persistently attempted to escape with the release of each new album.
Each new album after Sun In My Pocket has seen them explore new musical territories as they embraced attempted to incorporate hip-hop, synth-pop and commercial house music into their electro-pop stylings, but this resulted in much criticism until 2014’s The Odyssey – an album that saw them breaking out of their youthful pop territory as they embraced a much darker, grittier and mature sound. This gritty and more mature sound as being followed through with on Taste The Weekend – their fourth studio album, or fifth if you count the mixtape they released in 2013, and their major label debut on Warner Music South Africa.
“Grapevine” was the first song that was released off of Taste The Weekend and gave us the first glimpse of what Locnville were aiming for with their new album. The song itself still clings to the K-Day electro-pop aesthetic that embodied their debut album and even when Sabi’s vocals cut in – it still seems like Locnville don’t really want to leave their roots behind despite the murmurings of grimy deep house influences cutting in under the aloof synth-pop. However, it is in the songs that follow that Locnville tears themselves out of the rut that is the K-Day aesthetic. “Better” follows immediately after “Grapevine” with eclectic glitch-hop and underground deep house influences. This immediately points to Locnville pursuing an entirely new sound that even diverts from the commercial success that was The Odyssey. The club-orientated big-room beats are traded out for electro-pop hooks that when put together loosely represent something that could be described as a melody. These are then moulded into shape by a variety of influences drawn from the murky underground of South Africa’s EDM scene as a result of Locnville with Sketchy Bongo and Hendrik Jorgen to create “Cold Shoulder” and “Break Some Hearts”. Neither of these is songs that will be heard in clubs anytime soon, but they both show Locnville drawing heavily darker and grittier electronic sounds while retaining their clean-cut pop status.
Locnville may be developing their sound to become something that, if given further work, could be considered unique and tolerable for those inclined to electronic music. However, there are two problems with their new album. The first problem is that several songs, such as “Sexy and Original”, lean to heavily on American hip-hop influences – an issue that has been brought up with regards to many South African musicians. It can be considered unavoidable in an era where no music is truly considered to be original, but one would think that an established duo like Locnville would take it upon themselves to establish a sound that is remotely unique and different. Luckily this is not a persistent problem and can be attributed to the amount of time Locnville has spent in Los Angeles over the past year or two.
The major issue I have with Locnville’s latest album is that they’ve adopted much of the misogyny that is inherent to commercial American hip-hop and incorporated a lot of it into their lyrics. In my opinion, a duo with so many young and females fans should at least proof-read their lyrics to ensure that they don’t end up sexual objectifying women and to some extent implying that having multiple partners besides one’s “main girl” is an entirely appropriate thing to do. We may live in an era of sexual liberation, but that does not come at the expense of perpetuating patriarchal notions of male ownership and sexual objectification that comes with lyrics like “my baby is sexy and original” and “I’ve got a good girl in my life … and in case I fuck it up – I’ve got two more on the side”.
Luckily, Locnville has never been very good at writing lyrics and nobody has ever said they listen to the duo for their lyrics so much of it flies over the listener’s head and you just get to relish in thick slabs of well-produced electronic music that varies in its influences and its nature. The lyrics may be on just a slightly higher level than that of “Anaconda”, but the fierce, driving rhythm of “Santa Monica” and the glitch-hop ridden beats of the title song will distract you from the contrived attempts at song-writing.