Bodega – Without a Plan

Without a Plan

Andrew Rodriguez, the mastermind behind Bodega, has an interesting penchant for days not his own. It’s debatable if the music on Without a Plan is more psychedelic pop or spacey-pop, but it doesn’t really fit with today’s indie rock trends. I suppose a case could be made for his mention with Elephant 6 popsters, who equally enjoy the music of the 60s and 70s, but perhaps Bodega is better left in a class all of its own.
The music here is pristine, and Rodriguez took many pains to credit Dave Fridmann, the production superman behind Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, and more. Fridmann is known to turn pop into psychedelic affairs, and with even more involvement here (he plays several instruments as well), it’s obvious he has a heavy influence on the sound of Without a Plan. That may go a long way in promoting this release, for at times the swirling pop sound of guitar and organs and heavily effect-filled vocals hark to the lighter Flaming Lips and Sparklehorse moments.
The Beatles-esque pristine pop of “The Other Side of Love” is one of the highlights on the track, especially as Rodriguez goes off McCartney style on vocals over a fuzzed-out electric guitar. The most catchy song may be the most annoying. You’ll find yourself singing along on “Barcelona” and then disgusted when you find the lyrics are as meaningless as “it’s all a dream / chicos and chicas” and “we’re all going from A to B to C.” But you will sing along, no doubt about it.
The remaining songs are hit or miss. “Twisted Slopes” uses wonderful vocal layering and has the best sound on the whole album – it’s practically made for headphone listening. A bit darker in tone, “Shifts in Time” starts nice and has a more upbeat, catchy chorus. “Don’t Have a Clue” is a rock song, pure and simple, in the vein of early Stones, which doesn’t fit here well at all, and by contrast, “Without a Plan” is a swirling soundscape of guitars and keys that wouldn’t sound totally out of place on a Mercury Rev release. “Sometimes” is lighter, soft and chiming and folksy in nature, and “Are You Still There?” takes a similarly successful laid back approach with a darker tone.
All in all, Bodega is a bit too retro-minded for me. Rodriguez’s vocals are too pure, too cute, and the guitars here are too bouncy. Add tambourines and castanets, as the band has, and you get 60s-era music. Perhaps Fridmann had too strong a hand here. I suspect the music would benefit from a bit more edge, a bit more raw energy. Still, perfect production goes a long way, and for mindless summer pop tunes, you can do a lot worse than this.