The artist formerly known as Fro-Yo Ma has a cool new slow jam that opens up in psychedelic directions.
When I interviewed electronic artist Zack Villere in 2016, he saw a future as a singer.
“There are so many different facets to pop music that I can make what I want if I call it pop,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s pop like Justin Timberlake pop, but it might be. You never know what the next wave of popular music will sound like.”
At the time, the Covington resident performed as Fro-Yo Ma—a stage name he has retired—and he recorded instrumental tracks that were quietly, placidly psychedelic R&B. His music lives in the same neighborhood as Toro Y Moi, but Villere’s tracks sound urgent in the sense that if you don’t hear them now, he might pull them and change them tomorrow. He hasn’t done that, but arrangements feel Velcro’ed instead of nailed in place.
Two weeks ago, The Fader drew attention to "Cool," a new track that deals matter-of-factly with how he isn't cool. Villere followed that with a new indie R&B slow jam, “Next,” where he sings as a man who wants to lay you down but doesn’t want to put too much on the line. Normally, I’m skeptical of that stance as it feels like the singer hands his mixed emotions to his lover and gets mad because he/she—usually she—doesn’t know what to do with them. On “Next,” Villere sings, “I don’t know what’s next / because I don’t know what’s best for me.” He owns his emotions, so the soft sell comes off as honest and not passive-aggressive.
Halfway through the song, a mechanical gearshift signals a shift in chillwave direction as the track becomes more psychedelic. A couple of vocal melodies create a fantasia that defines the remainder of "Next." Each sounds slightly off but through repetition, each is normalized. Not so much that you don’t notice the odd notes, but instead of throwing you out of the song, they remind you that the cycles keep cycling.
Over that, Villere’s game sounds more rickety. He sing/speaks:
I didn’t think that you liked me
Why do you want to get coffee?
But I don’t even drink coffee
I’m down though
I’ll just get water.
That’s so self-negating that it sounds like he’s trying to talk his prospective date out of the date, but he continues, “We’ll see a movie and maybe go to the park.” He’s trying find out what’s best for him.
Zack Villere/Fro-Yo Ma on Soundcloud
A recent Villere-compiled Spotify playlist that sheds some light on where his music comes from.