Musician Daniel Kaplan has done a lot of morphing and experimenting since he came to Madison as part of UW-Madison's First Wave program. First known to local audiences for his brash but at times vulnerable work under the MC name Lord Of The Fly, Kaplan has increasingly stretched between hip-hop and other musical interests, rapping and singing in the exuberant R&B ensemble ME eN YOU, teaching himself piano on a Fender Rhodes that's become his constant companion, and playing behind other artists, including fellow First Waver Hiwot Adilow. His solo project Son! has released a handful of singles over the past couple of years that explored restless and uneasy territory between hip-hop and tender pop songwriting, an effort that began to cohere with the bittersweet chorus of last fall's "Dog."
At this show, Kaplan will celebrate Son!'s debut EP, Emotional Robots, a set of six new songs that, like the project's previous work, collide electronic production techniques with his ever-shifting vocal approach, and instrumentation that includes the Rhodes, buzzy-bright electric-guitar figures, and saxophone. Tracks like "Orangeade" and "Stank" function both as tightly built pop songs and playful, funky arenas for a lot of different ideas and melodic fragments to bounce around. The first single released from the EP, "What's Good," showcases the sweetness that comes through in Kaplan's more reflective movements, pairing Kaplan's wounded, up-front vocal melodies with an airy and expansive guest vocal from Slow Pulp's Emily Massey. There are still elements of hip-hop here, and Kaplan raps a bit when it serves the song overall, as in the flirtatious first verse of "Beer." Overall, Emotional Robots finds Kaplan's vision becoming a little more clear, but no less complex, and that yields an emotional payoff that's both immediate and filled with a swirl of conflicting feelings. The EP isn't officially out until April, but attendees at this show will be able to grab some early copies. —Scott Gordon