James & Evander: Bummer Pop
James & Evander: Bummer Pop– James & Evander are a synth pop duo from Oakland, CA. There are a few things that struck me about J&E when I first heard them: The almost chill-wave-like quality to their mixing and synths layered over their beat-heavy melodies were first and foremost. Add to that their soft-spoken vocals and somewhat distant lyrics and they endear themselves to you before they’ve really gotten started. Then they continue…
My first impressions of them came courtesy of Velvet Blue Music and their EP, Constellating. In many ways, it was a pretty nice introduction to them: A 5-song record with 3 dreamy pop songs and a couple of remixes that gave you an idea of what they were capable of without giving us so much that we’d be swayed one way or the other. In other words, the perfect tease. Then at the beginning of April, we were teased even further with the absolutely solid and flawless Ambigamy single. Its less-than-subtle beauty was more than a tease, it was a full-on assault on our collective heartstrings. So how would Bummer Pop fare?
Bummer Pop is aptly titled for a couple of reasons. First, the lyrical content is melancholy for the most part. Second, there’s plenty of pop to go around. The beauty of putting these two together is something that I love more than anything when an artist can pull off: Taking an upbeat song and making the lyrics somber or flipping it so a slower song has cheery content. There’s a few bands who can do this particularly well who come to mind– The Cure, The Radio Dept., Morrissey… and now we can add James & Evander to that list. From the moment Bummer Pop begins, the beats are pounding and the synths are swirling while their excellent short, soft-spoken vocals lull you into their dream-like reality. From there, their tracks rise and fall in tempo much like the tide coming in and out until it ends and you look around to figure out what just happened… much like waking up from a good-night’s sleep. Their occasional use of acoustic guitar was also surprising to hear from a synth pop outfit, but my fears were immediately alleviated once the vocals came in and were artfully blended better than I initially expected them to be. I still have my reservations about others attempting this, but J&E did it incredibly well and demonstrated how to pull it off while orchestrating the rest of the track around it in a way that complimented it perfectly.
From start to finish, James & Evander’s Bummer Pop is a perfect record in every respect. I know I should probably be less surprised when a record amazes me this way because I expect it to happen every once in a while, but the feeling never gets old. Breathtaking…10/10