DREAMERS at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)
When I saw DREAMERS perform at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis last March with the Kickback, it was the perfect storm — a show with no promotion on a sleepy Sunday night with non-stop rain and no audience other than myself and the bands. “If you ever wanted to see an entire concert just for you, this is your night!” Nick Wold joked from the stage, and while it was disappointing few saw it, the band proved from that point they were capable of putting on a great performance in any situation.
Fast-forward to the pending release of their latest album This Album Does Not Exist, due out via Fairfax Recordings on August 26th. A kinetic example of pop confections of the finest order, this album plays nonstop cool from the first notes of “Drugs,” a propulsive mix of Wombats-esque dance backdrops with vocals that echo the credible hooks of Guided By Voices, even as the overall result of the DREAMERS sound is something completely on its own plane. “Wolves (You Got Me)” is already a legitimate hit, and I’d be surprised if “Never Too Late To Dance” and “Come Down Slow” don’t soon join it on radio stations terrestrial and streaming alike. Even having seen them live, knowing the depth of their catalog and the number of songs they already had with hooks capable of worming their way into the brain, the new album proves surprising in that there’s not a dud here.
Even in a world of single-serve pop, these songs are best consumed in quick succession with the top down and the volume at 11. Pleasure is only guilty if you make it so, and the only thing wrong with this album would be passing it up.
Like a cocaine-fueled amalgamation of the Hoosiers and Linkin Park, with hints of Panic! At The Disco thrown in for good measure, Columbus (Ohio)’s Twenty | One | Pilots own flat-out the most infectious pop sound of the new year, and they’re ready to take your brain hostage at the slightest provocation. “”Holding On To You,” the album’s lead-off single, makes the mission clear from the start — they’re the kaleidoscope through which we should be viewing our music from here on, and the only rule is there are no rules.
Freewheeling between eighties-inspired glam-pop backdrops, hip-hop fueled fire-breathing and pop-punk inspired radio hooks from the Gods, this is music for those who want their music to continually twist the knife. “Migraine” opens with a burst of Imogen Heap-esque vocorder bliss, then bursts back and forth from a singable chorus to hip-hop verses like a feast for that space between your ears celebrating a tidal wave of creativity with hooks to spare. “Car Radio,” meanwhile, opens with a quiet instrumental interlude which is overlaid by a spoken-word burst of poetry bemoaning a life without music — the suffering of one who had his car radio stolen. “Sometimes quiet is violent,” he sings, before hinting that a life without music could be so terrifying death might actually be better than enduring the silence.
But the album’s biggest success is that lead single, and “Holding On To You” deserves to be the vehicle which introduces fans to this band certain to become their new favorite. The beginning is perfectly executed Wombats-inspired pop, building to rapped crescendos on the verses and a pop chorus Fall Out Boy would have killed for in their heyday. But it’s the breakdown three minutes in which burns the place down with a rapid-fire singalong sure to stick to your brain like glue:
Lean with it, rock with it
When we gonna stop with it?
Lyrics that mean nothing
We were gifted with thought
Is it time to move our feet
To an introspective beat
It ain’t the speakers that bump hard
It’s our hearts that make the beat
Doing what Alt-J did for fans of art rock last year, these two Midwestern purveyors of “schizoid pop” make mini-symphonies of genre blasting experimentation, making it fun to be a fan of pop music again. Come out of the closet, friends — if proof was needed, this is it, that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. When you’re flying with Twenty | One | Pilots, it’s all good!
If you haven’t yet heard of the Waylayers, be warned — with touches of EDM-inspired electronica blended into their ear-catching pop choruses, these East London boys focus intensely on their hooks. Like the Wombats and Lighthouse and the Whaler before them, the band fits perfectly amid the new wave of UK pop hit-makers, blending hints of electronic inspirations into alternative pop where the emphasis on strong melody and concise songwriting leads to songs which won’t easily escape your memory. “Magnets” in particular brings the synthesizers to the forefront, as fuzzed-out vocals hover just outside the frame, teasing us to listen closer as we find ourselves singing along. A yet-untitled EP awaits fans later this spring, but if there was ever a band tailor made for a steady stream of hit singles, Waylayers are it.
If I’d heard this one a few months ago it could have easily been my song of summer. Okay, actually I did hear this song a month ago, but it fell off my desk only to earworm its way back in, and I’m damned glad for it. The Zolas have a distinct sound — “Knot In My Heart” opens with an oddly familiar strain akin to touches of Flight of the Conchords mock folk, but twists off-kilter keyboards and haunting vocals quickly enter the mix, crafting a pop hook as warped as anything you’ve heard this year. The band’s latest album, Ancient Mars, came out this week on Light Organ Records, and is definitely an album you’ll want on your Fall driving radar. If you enjoy music by the Wombats, with hooks taking modern techno-pop touches and merging them with 90s alt-nostalgia, the Zolas will be your new favorite.
The Royal Concept’s latest video takes infectious pop to a new level!
Stockholm’s The Royal Concept has a ripping new video for “Gimme Twice,” which features the band being forced to perform like puppets under the total control of their handlers. The song itself is so mindlessly infectious, it instantly reminds one of the Wombats’ This Modern Glitch, which was dominated by hook-filled nuggets “Tokyo” and “Anti-D.” The key to enjoying the Royal Concept, however, is understanding they’re not taking themselves nearly as seriously as Wombats lead singer Matthew Murphy. To the contrary, this is dance-infused pop to set your feet on fire. There’s no time for serious considerations. “Come on, say it out loud so they all can hear!” their lead singer howls at the chorus “I’m the one for you …” By the end of the listen, you’ll believe it, and you’ll want to hear more. Thankfully, their full self-titled EP is available to provide exactly that.
Year of the Album — #041
The Wombats – “This Modern Glitch” (2011, 14th Floor Records)
“I’m only here because I think today deserves a really sordid end,” The Wombats‘ Matthew Murphy sings on “Jump Into The Fog,” a song which seems to serve as a lyrical center for This Modern Glitch, an album full of perfectly respectable indie pop with elements of disco and punk. But the album is marred by a surprisingly harsh, cynical streak, as Murphy tears apart any idea that there’s hope for happiness in life. “I bet they charge by the hour here,” he sings of a hotel room he’s brought a woman to. “[It’s] the kind of place you should bring your own UV ray/ It’s not a big problem with me love/ you don’t look that hygienic anyway.”
As a whole This Modern Glitch swings and misses, failing to become the glossy pop album it could be, while also failing to be as deep lyrically as one suspects Murphy wishes it was. While the music might get people dancing in the club, it’s unlikely to make a big impression beyond that. This is a prime example of a here today, gone tomorrow album — musically charming but in reality a schizophrenic vision which wallows in a bleak worldview.
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Read the whole review at Stereo Subversion!