Staying the course, Berkeley, California’s POP ETC stays true to their name by showing their true synth pop colors on their new self-titled album, which was released on June 12th on Rough Trade Records. Bright and playful melodies dapple the canvas as they demonstrate their flare on popular electronica. This trio is made up of members of former indie popster bombshell The Morning Benders and is known musically by their trademark flowing vocals, bouts of rhythmic backing tracks, and overall positive charisma, which is ever present on their debut album. As musical architects, POP ETC’s skeleton is hinged by a fusion of catchy pop hooks but also harnesses an obvious musical prowess that encompasses electronic grooves, eerie piano and synthesized licks with layered vocals. Hand claps, unwavering hi-hat bass snare beats, auto-tuned vocals and a ghost like synth are tasteful ear candy on tracks such as my personal favorite, “Everything is Gone”. A dynamic use of space in the middle of the song gives the drums a powerful centerpiece role as the groove ultimately reigns as king of this track and many others on POP ETC’s self-titled release.
Although, above, it would seem that I am thoroughly impressed with this album, there is a bit left to be desired concluding a listen. This synth pop rhythm and blues album is nothing out of the ordinary. I do believe, however, that there are some clever twists throughout the album but unfortunately it all becomes a bit repetitive both musically and lyrically. Being a fan of The Morning Benders I had lofty expectations for POP ETC, but it was the raw heartfelt vocals whose hook melody couldn’t get out of my head. This album’s auto tuned vocals, recurring synth and backing track instrumentation however, didn’t sit as comfortably as I had expected. Artists should progress and change as POP ETC is doing and I do believe that there are some redeeming qualities to this project. Lead singer Chris Chu’s voice is not only indie-proof, but also has a character that could potentially be lucrative in the pop world as well. The instrumentation on this album is not poor; it is just not out of the ordinary. There are hooks and there are solid grooves and there are some very shining moments, but before they gain any more attention they need to at least maintain some direction. Overall, a listenable album; hold the auto-tune and synth drum beat on each song in succession however.