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First Watch: Delicate Steve, 'Cartoon Rock'

A still from "Cartoon Rock." (Courtesy of the artist)closemore
A still from "Cartoon Rock." (Courtesy of the artist)

Delicate Steve makes music that is guitar-based and quirky. I first heard his hard-to-describe music in 2011 and chose "Butterfly" as one of my favorite songs of that year. Now there's new music from Delicate Steve, a.k.a. Steve Marion — and it, too, is hard to characterize. In fact, he told me in an email that people always ask him what type of music he plays.

"Instead of calling it pop music, sometimes I tell them it's cartoon music so that they might be curious enough to go and listen to it," he says. "Then I made the song 'Cartoon Rock,' imagining what cartoon music might actually sound like if ZZ Top were the genre's founding fathers. The song is also inspired by Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Queens of the Stone Age, Deerhoof and Devo."

The song comes from a new album appropriately titled This Is Steve, which he recorded in just 11 days. "I tried to not let my mind get in the way of the creative process," he says. "For me, that means aiming for an honest representation of where I am at creatively instead of striving to create a masterpiece. There is joy and humor and soul and light and darkness in my music, and in letting all of those elements come through naturally without much thought, it is my way of being vulnerable in my art. I think good albums can illuminate the soul of the artist that created them."

Delicate Steve's bandmate Christian Peslak, who played New York Dolls singer David Johansen in the HBO series Vinyl, directed and stars in this video for "Cartoon Rock." In a two-minute human cartoon, he plays a "Pink Party Cowboy" with a cartoon-rock lifestyle — it's not too different from watching The Monkees. The animations are by drummer Jonathan Rosen. It's the perfect illustration and interpretation of the music.

Delicate Steve told me that "the only song that sounds like cartoon rock on this record is the song 'Cartoon Rock.' The rest are other unique glimpses into my world. For that reason I decided that the best name for the album would be This Is Steve." That album comes out Jan. 27, 2017, on ANTI- Records.

Copyright NPR 2016.

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