A bright and life-affirming pop jaunt
2020 has felt borderline apocalyptic for essentially months at this point. The world is imploding, eating itself alive and jumping off a cliff, somehow all at the same time. It’s a sad state of affairs. In times like these, art possesses immense power. It can spark revolutions, it can make people feel heard and loved, and sometimes, just simply uplift. Discovering a great song, or even just appreciating an old favorite, can absolutely be the difference between a refreshing day and just another 24 hours of quarantine fog. BUMPER’s pop songs 2020 EP can make that difference.
The title’s reference to this total mess of a year feels almost tongue-in-cheek; it’s like they already know how much of a bright spot the EP is likely to become for many individuals. This fresh duo is composed of two well-respected veterans: Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner and Crying’s Ryan Galloway. Their refreshing, light and viscerally satisfying pop debut couldn’t have come at a better time.
The EP begins with “You Can Get It,” the perfect example of everything this new group can already achieve with a distinct combination of crisp electronics and just a few other instruments. Simply put, the track feels like a sunny day. It exudes love through twinkling synths, amazing guitar and fantastic vocal layering on the chorus. “Black Light” follows, and while it isn’t quite the hit that the first track was, it’s still not wildly creative and entertaining. Tonally, it’s a bit darker (especially during the verses), but the brooding pre-chorus and cathartic chorus maintain the excitement. Also, the synth solo is fantastic and the instrumental interplay on the chorus is very cool.
Track three, “Red Brick,” brightens up the EP once again with a ton of bounce, more sunny and rhythmically rewarding synths, and Zauner’s best vocal performance. pop songs 2020 concludes with “Ballad 0,” a substantial but mostly successful shift to, unsurprisingly, balladry. Sure, the group may feel more at their best on busier production, but Zauner’s emotional performance and some gorgeous keys are still able to make this one a solid closer.
Great pop can feel like a much needed breath of fresh air. It’s a sort of palate cleanser, both emotionally and musically. BUMPER’s pop songs 2020 is an exemplary work in proving just how powerful a highly concentrated dose of truly impressive pop craftsmanship can be. It’s a satisfying, albeit brief listen front-to-back, and every track shines (to varying degrees) individually. For a debut record, nothing is more exciting.