Picture the following: you dropped three critically acclaimed albums, one more than the other. They all tackle the life of being a black alternative person in the field of music during a time where racism slowly and confidently dares to show their fascist face (or hide it). You are now signed to Father/Daughter Records, a label that signed breakout artists such as NNAMDI, Vagabon and Remember Sports. You got to perform festivals such as Afropunk and …Is For Lovers, a festival helmed by veteran emo band Hawthorne Heights. You get to open for bands like The Hold Steady, Los Campesinos! and Home is Where. For most people, this would be a wonderful sign that you made it in the indie rock world, right? For Proper., it opens up a whole different world of anxieties.
Before tackling these anxieties, Proper. has recently introduced themselves as a prog-rock band. Though, there are no storylines like Coheed and Cambria or endless passages like The Mars Volta, the band does approach each project like a concept album. The concept for Part-Timer? A both seamless and therapeutic conversation between listener and artist concerning some of the most personal yet universal thoughts for a musician who wants to have a lucrative career. Not just any artist, but a real black rock musician who finally got a real shot at stardom. Amongst those niggling thoughts are of losing real friends to the grind and gaining haters who sees your rise as meager compared to most stars (“Marquee”), watching your music friend get famous and contemplating whether your turn at fame would change you and paint you in a false light (“Potential”) and trying to find that sweet balance between being a rock star and just being an everyday person on the street without people forgetting the impact Proper. has as a band, which is a concern that Living Colour also tackled on “Which Way to America?” (“Middle Management”). Most people would fear such nakedness, but Erik and his band are able to, at least, give you the musical delicacy and intensity necessary to stress such important thoughts. Concerning the weight of each word said, you would be massively surprised they didn’t just make a noise album and be done with it all.
But don’t get the idea that Erik is just soliloquizing out of nowhere, as even thoughts about one day becoming famous and going the way of Mr. West is brought up. On “Potential,” a song from which that concern closes the album, Erik questions whether such fame and pursuit of money will change his very being. Part of the concern is the possibility of being someone’s hero, and having to be such hero to hunt, when it comes time to snipe an artist. While such topic isn’t at all new, what makes the song so compelling is Erik’s ability to make you shake in your boots at the very thought of what comes after the come up. Thankfully, Proper. is at least able to balance this with some form of optimism for what is to come. “Lull” not only finds Erik a little more confident about his push to the next level, he even sings off by promising a fourth album on the way. Whether this is best taken as a smile and a peace sign or a shrug at the concerns he might still have in the hole is up to your concern.
Part-Timer is the kind of album that answers and asks the hard questions that musicians ask themselves everyday. How do you stay sane? Is it possible to still come up with the same friends? Are you doing enough if you aren’t, say, performing in Madison Square Garden by now? Is it possible to not compare your future with another’s? And most of all, do you feel like being a well-known musician is a situation that you can truly control on your own terms? Though, it isn’t entirely clear as to whether or not the album is made to inspire discourse or if it is made to simply be a diaristic release in between albums, Part-Timer EP is a hell of a check-in EP for converted fans letting you know what is going on and what is to come. Even better, if the worries aren’t of your concern at all, the music is just solid enough to have you banging your head as well as sinking into the head with your headphones on.