Power pop is not FUTURE FEATS’ forte
The defense of pop music is important. While the idea of making music, or any sort of art for that matter, with the express purpose of making money or becoming popular, shouldn’t be considered a particularly noble pursuit. Music that employs song structures, melodies and production elements that are likely to be found in mainstream pop music shouldn’t be disregarded. Unfortunately, FUTURE FEATS’ most recent project, [ P R E S E T S ], exemplifies what can be so frustrating about pop and its strong influence beyond the mainstream realm, even at its most genuine. FUTURE FEATS aren’t incapable of creating a great album. However, a great album would demand that the group either come up with a whole lot of new ideas and amalgamate their own unique version of pop, or find a way to mute the worst parts of pop’s strong, and often irritating, influence on their sound.
[ P R E S E T S ]’s opener, “Runaway,” briefly foists a sense of optimism about this project. The eerie synth intro does a great job of setting the stage for a synth-heavy electronic pop album with a dark edge. While [ P R E S E T S ] doesn’t necessarily live up to the high expectations set by this song, it shows what the group is capable of in a number of ways. Aside from the lyrics, which are a problem throughout the project, this song has everything: the vocal performance, song structure, and bold production choices are all there.
The next song, “Cities In Wonder,” feels like the closest the group comes to writing the power-pop hit for which they seem to be striving. It also introduces FUTURE FEATS’ propensity for the most overused elements of pop songwriting. There are claps, “yeah yeah” chants, and vaguely motivational lyrics abound on this one. “On Diamonds” and “27” continue the cold streak. “On Diamonds” is another by-the-numbers bastardization of power pop, this time feeling awkwardly country-adjacent, and “27” feels like it’s missing something that could’ve helped drive home the clear emotion in the vocals. More variation in production throughout the song would’ve helped make it feel less empty.
FUTURE FEATS’ idea of experimentation seems to be throwing a new production element that doesn’t fit well into their usual slate of creative choices or removing something that at least makes their songs feel complete. Aside from the closing track “Presets” and “Bad Luck”, which feels like a refreshing departure from their style, everything after “27,” feels irredeemable. This isn’t to say that [ P R E S E T S ] is an album that is made up solely of terrible songs. A more apt description would be that [ P R E S E T S ] is an album that is made up of all-too-familiar songs that never quite reach beyond mediocrity. They will likely leave listeners missing the great pop songs that this album desperately wants to deliver.