Thursday, December 22, 2016

StonerPop - Self-Titled

StonerPop - Self-Titled 

StonerPop’s five song self-titled debut is a collection of electro pop that harbors no apparent ambition to make you dance. This is dire, soul-crushing laments about alienation and broken love, but StonerPop are clearly looking to create music that breaks with norms while still making use of the genre’s sonic template. Many outfits working in this vein are adept at creating soundscapes but, while StonerPop’s Jimmie Maneuva clearly can’t resist weaving some atmospherics, StonerPop largely refrains from using its electronic firepower in such a way. Instead, the songs on StonerPop’s debut elongate structures some, but follow precise patterns and show a clarity of vision most first releases lack. This isn’t music that sprawls; instead, Maudie Michelle and Maneuva keep its elements under tight control and shape the compositions through an accumulation of effects rather than singular, dramatic turns. They are joined by Fred Kalil from the band Porcelain People on the EP’s final two tracks, but there’s no question that every creative decision made on this release bears the mark of Michelle and Maneuva.  

Those decisions pay off nicely from the first. The patience and playfulness in the opener “Preachers” is hard to miss. Michelle gives the audience an often emotive vocal, but the confidence reflected by the song’s surprising use of its instruments, the dramatic spikes and dips in intensity, and its slowly unwinding quality contrasting its relatively short length make this a memorable start to the EP. The EP’s second track “Running” raises the bar even higher. This is a song with something hot on its heels and the stressed out qualities in the music give it an immediacy other composers in this area might have struggled to suggest so easily. There is something of the same stripped down effect here that we heard in the EP’s first song, but it’s overall a much busier number. “You’re Never Listening” wears its emotions on its musical sleeve. Much like “Running”, this song feels under pressure from the first seconds on and only narrowly avoids blowing up. Michelle’s singing has an almost seething sound during much of the song that adds immeasurably to its appeal.  

Fred Kalil’s contribution to “Monsters” is primarily musical and his vocals don’t figure much into the performance. Michelle’s voice dominates this song and she turns in what sounds like a painful performance reliving emotions and memories that, perhaps, she has kept long buried. His vocal turn on the EP’s finale “Fox” is quite good, if not a little inexplicable. There’s nothing about the song lyric that should have disqualified Michelle from singing this song, but it’s likewise a good sign in certain respects. This decision shows how StonerPop isn’t beholden to the audience’s expectations and will do what they deem best for their art irrespective of other’s thoughts. This sort of blindness to the standard operating procedure is one of the best things setting this band apart from their contemporaries. StonerPop’s debut is an entertaining and idiosyncratic piece of work. 

9 out of 10 stars

Scott Wigley

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