Thursday, December 22, 2016

StonerPop - Self titled

StonerPop - Self titled  

Electro pop often takes an unbalanced approach. The artists in the genre frequently place more importance on their keyboards and synthesizers and reduce the important role vocals and lyrics can play to something akin to an afterthought tacked on for consumers. StonerPop doesn’t follow this logic. The five songs on their debut EP aim to provide listeners with an involving musical and lyrical experience. Vocalist and co-songwriter Maudie Michelle gives her audience a variety of “looks” over the course of her four singing performances and the different poses she strikes never ring false. She proves herself quite capable of holding up her end of each cut she’s featured on. Her artistic cohort Jimmie Maneuva contributes occasional vocals, but his musical arrangements are crucial for giving Michelle an attention holding platform for her to stretch her talents. 

She keeps her vocal presence on the first song “Preachers” every bit as understated as her musical accompaniment. There’s a lot of space in a song like this and some passages literally drop out of nowhere, with little preamble, exert their influence over the song, then disappear just as quickly. It isn’t an arbitrary thing, however. It becomes apparent rather quickly that there is a definable structure to the song that’s quite inventive, referencing the familiar while still delivering the unexpected. The duo dials the intensity up a few notches on the second song “Running”. Maneuva’s musical contributions invoke the song title artfully and there’s just the right amount of post production effects to give this a pleasing theatrical turn. The song is a little more packed with musical action than the opener, but StonerPop shows off here the same talent for orchestrating the elements of electro pop in mature, artistically useful ways. “You’re Never Listening (Get Over Yourself)” has a lot of the attitude detectable in its title, but StonerPop is never obvious about it. They opt, instead, for giving shape to those emotions with sharply defined synth lines and the right amount of ambient sound effects to hang omnipresent over the audience. This song and the one preceding are, far and away, the most intense musical turns StonerPop take on the EP and reflect their songwriting at its most challenging thus far. 

They finish their debut up with much more optimistic, cheerful fare. “Monsters” has a rather dramatic lyric exploring childhood memories and other themes, but it is a much more elegiac and approachable song musically than its lyrics would suggest. Michelle definitely gives listeners her most impassioned vocal performance yet, but it isn’t any sort of hollow pyrotechnic display – the most satisfying thing about her singing on this track is the obvious attention she pays to every line. The final song “Fox” has an even more pronounced commercial edge, but it never quite crosses over thanks to the sometimes fragmented nature of StonerPop’s often lovely melodies. They do what any great musical unit should do – filter their influences through their own personalities and create stylistically distinctive work that no one will mistake for anyone else. StonerPop have accomplished that five songs into their career and can now start work on expanding the scope of their achievement even further. 

9 out of 10 stars 

Joshua Stryde

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