If you havent heard of Pop ETC, its because it didnt 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 Echos more developed chamber pop. The bands new name is not in vain, however, as theyve never sounded more poppy.
The mixtapes tone is well established in a 43-second intro thats 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 whoas 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 BjÃ¶rk’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 ETCs case, the answer to, Whats 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”