Devonté Hynes first appeared as a member of the joky UK dance-punk trio Test Icicles. Then, under the name Lightspeed Champion, he released a Bright Eyes–ish solo debut that he'd recorded in Omaha with Saddle Creek's in-house producer, Mike Mogis.
On this new disc, he's a Todd Rundgren–style art-pop eclectic, mixing and matching styles and sounds in dramatically delivered songs about his oh-so-sensitive soul. Thanks to his clever wordplay and inventive melodic flair — not to mention the mixing-board mojo of Gnarls Barkley/Animal Collective collaborator Ben Allen — it's his most compelling guise so far.
Life Is Sweet! is best at its brightest and fastest, as in "Marlene," a funky neo-Motown stomper in which Hynes tells his lady, "Everybody knows you want a baby," and "Madame Van Damme," where he layers choppy post-punk guitars over a chewy girl-group beat. Slower, more contemplative tunes like "Romart," on the other hand, can get a little dreary (even if they're very pretty). Next time, dude, leave the balladeer behind.