They have to be commended for their bravery, but Pop Etc would have been better off sticking a little closer to home.
The Morning Benders' second record Big Echo was one of the great surprises of 2010. All spindly guitars and lovestruck vocals, it sat comfortably in many of that year's best-of lists. The indie world, it seemed, had flagged them through. Confusing then was the news a few months ago that the Benders had only just come to grips with the fact that their name had some less salubrious connotations over in the UK and that, as a result, they'd be switching to the almost distractingly vague moniker of Pop Etc.
What's in a name though, huh? What's pertinent here is the fact that this shift in identity has been accompanied by an equally unexpected departure in sound. Gone altogether are the guitars, replaced by a world of synths, flutters and highly processed beats that immediately bring to mind a more commercial version of James Mercer and Brian Burton's Broken Bells. It's not at all surprising to find that Burton aka Danger Mouse produced a track here – first single and obvious starting point Keep It To Your Own.
The question is, though – does it suit them? The answer is: not really. A cohesive record for sure, Pop Etc winds its way through the sugar-sweet pop Halfway To Heaven to the admittedly excellent, almost chillwave I Wanna Be Your Man, and ends with a track called YoYo which sounds a bit like a Passion Pit B-side by way of The Breakfast Club. Chu's voice is uniformly high in the mix and constantly Auto-Tuned, elements that combine with the high-end production to render the whole thing a bit too slick for comfort. They have to be commended for their bravery, but Pop Etc would have been better off sticking a little closer to home.
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