There’s money in pop. It’s accommodating, polished, sweeps up big places, and remains customizable. There’s also interest; both by listeners and musicians. It’s not that everyone wants to be the next Timberlake or Gaga, but if there’s a potential for crossover, the positives outweigh what little negatives lie ahead. Go ahead and ask Tegan and Sara, whose poppy change of pace on this year’s Heartthrob nabbed them their highest charting release yet. There’ll always be people that want to rock, but there will always be even more people who want to dance. And whereas rock ‘n’ roll continues to choke on its bones, pop music manages to surround itself with all sorts of intriguing possibilities.
Happy Hollows singer-songwriter Sarah Negahdari has to understand this. Three years, and one Silversun Pickups tour behind her, she’s back to her Los Angeles outfit. There’s been some remodeling, though. Drummer Chris Hernandez left the band in 2011, and with him went the scuzzy guitars and, well, the garage, too. In their wake lies Amethyst, Negahdari’s sophomore effort and heavy permutation into something akin to synthpop. This wasn’t by accident, as she’s quite aware of the changes, telling Boxx Magazine that they host a “poppier sound”, even throwing around words like “lush”, “experimental”, and “sonic layers.”
Problem is, the end result’s more of a reinvention than a strict evolution. Negahdari’s operatic vocals are about the only thing that keep this from being called something else. The grungy, late ’80s college rock guitars have been replaced by the same decade’s brand of synthesizers and drum machines that conjure anything but Negahdari’s aforementioned descriptions. A collection of tracks — “Endless”, “Galaxies”, “Beside Me”, “Hawaii”, and “Count No Years” — shine as tinkered reflections of Shiny Toy Guns, Dragonette, and Icona Pop, all successful commodities at their given times.
And like Pop FM’s latest hits, it’s catchy, it’s bright (metaphorically, not literally), and it moves. Producer Lewis Pesacov, who handled Best Coast’s addicting 2010 debut, has assisted in creating a far more adhesive album than Spells. Only he’s also stripped Happy Hollows of the little character they built for themselves three years ago. Even on their strongest track, “Stop the World”, Negahdari succumbs to the now-corroded melodies that so many crossover acts have mined from New Order, or Blondie, or The Smiths, resulting in a sound that’s amicable because it’s always been amicable. Will you rock? No. Will you dance? More like a hollowed sway.
Essential Tracks: “Stop the World”