Aside from its sinuous melodies, the most distinctive (and probably most divisive) aspect of Secromance is its vocals, or lack thereof. Howard uses what he calls "tuned and pitch automated vocals"—in other words, those Mac computer voices you remember playing with as a kid. This could be meant as some kind of commentary (the irony of producers using electronic equipment to express human feelings, the supposed dishonesty of electronic music), or it could be a sincere attempt to wring pathos out of his equipment. Either way, it's difficult territory. On "Been Steppin To Your Love," for example, the stilted vocals turn out hammier than the most earnest of Daft Punk ballads.
It seems like Howard's in on the joke, at least judging from a title like "See Quincy Report," which hints at just how mangled these phrases get through their stretching and pulling. And when they don't sound ridiculous, they're surprisingly affecting; the voice intoning "your wish is my every love" on "Tragedy" gains a sort of poignance after being repeated so tenaciously. At the same time, there's something pathetic about the same voice insisting "you are my possession" over lolling organ tones in "Possession," spitting out the word "heartbeat" as if it knows it'll never actually have one.
Even with such mixed results, there's something brutally honest about Secromance. Combined with Howard's gift for overt sentimentality, it hits like a ton of bricks at its best, and washes over in a pleasant blur at its worst.