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Pop ETC – Mixtape

on April 16, 2012, 7:58am
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If you haven’t heard of Pop ETC, it’s because it didn’t exist until about two-and-a-half weeks ago. Or rather, it did, but in the form of beloved indie rockers The Morning Benders. After touring abroad, the group learned that the word “bender” is slang for “homosexual” in Europe and decided to change its name, which dated back to 2005. Along with this change came a brand new Mixtape.

The 11-track album is brief, with four interludes around one minute each, and only one track clocking in at over four minutes. The trio used the rest of the album to deviate from Talking Through Tin Cans’ sparse, sunny melodies and Big Echo’s more developed chamber pop. The band’s new name is not in vain, however, as they’ve never sounded more poppy.

The mixtape’s tone is well established in a 43-second intro that’s filled with synths, R&B-laced harmonies, and what sounds like Jemaine Clement saying, “Welcome To The World of Pop ETC”. That world sports winding synthesizers, breathy choruses, and auto-tuned bridges, as heard on a track like “Everything Is Gone”, a number which makes Big Echo seem harder and grittier in retrospect. Frontman Chris Chu is up for the transition, and his vocals shine on the ‘80s-esque “Hungry Like The Wolf” (not a Duran Duran cover), whose synths and poignant “whoa”s make it radio-ready.

There are missteps, though, even amongst the stuff that shines. A repetitive chorus coupled with a looped drum machine/synth combination on “Halfway To Heaven” marks an unfortunate trend on a handful of lackluster tracks. These effects even downplay their otherwise solid cover of Björk’s “Unravel”, which takes the stripped-down sound of the sweeping, dramatic 1997 original and creates a quiet ballad that explodes into multiple layers. It’s a gem for this mixtape, but it’s far too flashy to stand on its own.

In Pop ETC’s case, the answer to, “What’s in a name?” is a whole lot of electropop, and while this quick mixtape has its fun moments, whether or not the band can hang onto old fans with their new Top 40-esque sound remains undecided.

Essential Tracks: “Hungry Like The Wolf”

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