June 9th, 2010
Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m kind of a sucker for the underground, lo-fi pop and punk sounds that seem to be so fashionable these days (the Intelligence, the Lights, Real Estate, etc). Oh sure, some of my favorite bands are as big and polished as the bumper of a ’56 Chevy, but there’s just something alternately magnetic about those coarse and concise unearthed gems that hook an ear and utilize more scratch than sleek. Like most people, I tend towards music often described as “poppy” and “catchy” (for lack of better terms), or with an underlying beat. But that “pop” or that “catch” has to be kind of weird, too. Its face has to be kind of beat up, its voice imperfect and offset, experimental elements mingling with traditional instrumentation. In music, opposite forces working towards a natural, common goal—the yin and yang, if you will—is best represented in a weird, catchy tune.
It just so happens that the local pop under-maestros in Stephanie feel the exact same way (amazing how that happens!). The quartet—whom I admittedly know little about—has recently put together a short album for the GGNZLA Crew (more on them here), and caters nicely to my little preamble there. Just six songs deep, it’s a valiant effort of lighthearted dramatics, crisp and/or caterwauling guitars, sparkling and syncopated Casio-tones, rough-hewn production, and a deep appreciation for early 80s post-punk rhythms. The lead singer is a bit of an amateur opera man, singing in overt, theatrical registers and going against the grain of traditional rock vocalists. His unique voice, not unlike the Dead Science’s Sam Mickens, won’t appeal to everyone. But perhaps the band’s insouciant art-pop sincerity will.
The standout tracks for me are “Freak Flag”, which has a Joy Division-meets-Tom Vek thing going on, “Meds” with its warm-blooded pulse and swirling, shimmering keys, and “WASP”, a toe curling, semi-sinister laser-punk tune with an interwoven Rasta beat. Yep. Check out a few of their songs below, and see if it doesn’t grab you. July 7th at the Cairo art gallery is their next scheduled performance.