Cameron Lew, otherwise known as Ginger Root, released his EP City Slicker in August of 2021. This EP is a collection of six uplifting songs perfect for grooving to solo or with company. Lew classifies his sound as aggressive elevator soul as he ties in elements from bedroom pop and funk. Aspects from city pop largely influence Lew’s instrumentation and production.
The EP opens with a flutter of guitar strings, flutes, and cymbals in “Fly Too”. The drums and clear keys transition the ears into a soft sway, and then the bass introduces itself with a line that climbs up the scale. The lyrics describe the moments of waiting before metaphorically taking flight and moving on to whatever is the next chapter. From chorus to verse, there is a pull and release that keeps the momentum rolling. Towards the end, all the instruments intensify with the reinforcement of the saxophone. The song ends with the flutter of a butterfly’s wings introduced in the beginning.
The butterfly evolves into a hummingbird, and the wings beat more energetically as the guitar picks descend down the neck of the instrument. The percussion is the beating heart in “Loretta”. The timbre of the hi-hats and the sudden clicks of the cowbell cohesively pulse and propel the melody. Ginger Root’s most viral song is a concoction of electric guitar picks, powerful basslines, “meowing” synths, spiccato and pizzicato strings, and glistening keyboard runs. The saxophone solo permeates the bridge leading up to the outro. The “Loretta build” is the best moment in the whole EP, as the chord progression goes: same, same, up, down. Truly, this moment is one of the best pieces of ear candy ever created. While the tune is light and airy, the lyrics imply a breakup – the singer grappling with the reality of letting go of their past lover. Poetry and melody clash against each other. Yet, within this juxtaposition, the melody reigns supreme and overtakes center stage.
“Neighbor” is formulated for cats that hoolahoop. Lew’s vocals and the “meowing” synth harmonize together in this intimate duet that goes back and forth between the two. The modulation and panning of the synth in the intro formulates the effect of blowing bubbles out of a straw into a cold glass of chocolate milk. In the verses, the simplicity of the bass and drums support the vocals. The synth joins Lew in the chorus and then ultimately gains control of the “doo doo doo” melodic line, producing a choir of meows.
The duet with the synth’s meows and Lew’s voice carry into “Juban District”. The contrast in the character of his vocals in the chorus compared to in the verse allow the ears to embark on an enjoyable kiddie coaster. Lew’s voice is soft and caressing in the verse and then shifts into a grungy and rich growl in the chorus. The grunts after singing “Juban District” in the chorus add flavor and sustenance. While Juban District is a place in Tokyo, it is also the setting of a 1992 anime adaptation of Sailor Moon, which Lew is a fan of.
“City Slicker” is cute with the light and bouncy staccatos of the keys. Two synthetic saxophones – one panned to the left and the other panned to the right – form a bowl for the vocals to sit in the middle. The percussion is superb in this EP, and Lew demonstrates this once again in this song.
The EP ends with “Entertainment”, in which the instrumentation should belong in the video game, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. The dinging synth occupies the upper register, while the thick bass dominates the lower. The guitar picks pan back and forth, and the music trances the body into a bobblehead doll. With a quarter of the song left, the number of instruments drop and the absence draws focus to the synth lead. The instruments then return with a new one joining every measure, finally preparing for the conclusion of “doo’s”.
There is little variation in character and ambiance within this collection of six songs. The songs are not sextuplets, though each song is distinct as if they are siblings. However, because they were so alike, stagnation begins to set in at song four. The experience is equivalent to eating a six course meal, where every course is a different variation of pasta. Sure, the pasta is delicious in each variation – alfredo, pesto, etc. – yet the stomach craves for an appetizer, a dessert – tiramisu! The same goes here – the ears crave for more variation in speed and character. Nevertheless, Lew is a master composer of synth leads that hook the neural pathways of instigating a boogie session. I hope to hear Ginger Root’s music in a future elevator ride.
Best Song: “Juban District”
Best Moment: @2:41 in “Loretta”