Wednesday, May 28, 2014

REVIEW: Popstrangers - Fortuna

The sound of Antipodes, the debut LP from New Zealand's Popstrangers, was characterized by squalling guitars, grunge sensibility and an endearingly idiosyncratic approach.  Since then, the trio has shifted their location to London and their sound to something decidedly more pop.   Thus, on Fortuna  the presentation reflects influences such as Britpop, '60s British invasion and the jangle and drone of the classic New Zealand guitar sound.  There are hints of Oasis and Blur in the mix, but in a good way.  And happily the personalized little quirks remain, resulting in an album that manages to plow its own path in a well worked field.

Where Popstrangers' growth is most evident to me is in the better understanding of the dynamics of the song -- the placement of the hooks, the building of the atmosphere -- as well as the cleaner sound and tighter performances.  The result is an excellent collection of songs.  Probably the best is "Country Kill" (provided below as a stream and video). "Don't Be Afraid", "Sandstorm", and (a personal favorite) "Violet".  For my money, the first half of the album may be a bit stronger than the second, but all of the tracks hold up to repeated listens.  I get the sense that the band truly believes in the merit of these songs, and I think the belief is well-founded.  Of course every band wants to avoid the sophomore slump, and that challenge becomes more difficult when moving around the globe and changing up your music.  That Popstrangers not only held their ground, but in my view made an even better album than their debut suggests that these guys have what it takes to keep moving forward in the industry.

Popstrangers are Joel Flyger, Adam Page and David Larson.  Fortuna is out this week via Carpark Records.

Carpark Records

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