Souvenir album review

Rough Trade Records

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Hi! Hello, unlucky person surfing the Pathfinder and happened to click on this review. Now you get to hear me rant about music. POP ETC (said “pop et cetera”) is an indie rock band that originated in Berkeley, CA, and later moved to New York City, NY. For years they have toured around the nation with larger alternative rock bands like The Black Keys and Death Cab for Cutie.

Formally known as The Morning Benders, POP ETC is a synthesizer rock band that debuted in 2008 with their album Talking Through Tin Cans. After the album’s release in January of 2008, they toured around the U.S. opening for big name bands like The Kooks, Death Cab for Cutie and the Black Keys.

After touring around the country for the majority of 2008 and 2009 and releasing a few EPs (Bedroom Covers (2008) and Grain of Salt (2009)) the band relocated to Brooklyn in December of 2010 and produced and mixed their second album, Big Echo, in twelve days and released it in March of 2010.

Since Big Echo, the band has released two albums, the self-titled album (2012) and Souvenir (2016). The opening track, “Please, Don’t Forget Me,” is a very synthesizer-heavy song, as they are a synth rock band, and relatively upbeat. However, after listening closely to the lyrics, lead singer, Christopher Chu, obviously had a dark connotation in mind since he wrote about how he “fucked up in the end” but “hopes [they] can still be friends.”

“Vice” then follows up with Chu singing about how (presumably) the same girl’s “vices… take a hold of him” and keep bringing him back to her. The chorus’ progression is sub-par but is still pretty catchy with a nod-your-head-back-and-forth feel with contemplative lyrics.

The following two songs, “I Wanted to Change the World, But the World Changed Me” and “Running in Circles” were both average for songs. Both are very electronic drum-driven songs with arpeggiated lead lines which became very boring very quickly.

“What Am I Becoming?” was released before the album came out and picked up a lot of popularity in the month before the release making it in the SiriusXM ALT Nation “Alt 18,” The video to go along with the song features a man in his apartment for weeks slowly becoming a recluse, ending with him running out to roof in his pajamas. On the surface, the video doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I think it accurately represents the song visually.

The next song is hands-down my favorite on the entire album. “Backwards World” opens with a happy(ish) guitar line and continually stays upbeat for the rest of the song which was a nice change compared to the rest of the album. The song is lyrically brilliant because Chu sings about how screwed up relationships are made, run, and ended in our society’s ideals.

“Your Heart is a Weapon” and “Beating my Head Against the Wall” were the epitome of structured pop music: repetitive lead line, catchy hook, loud driving chorus into lower second verse, quiet bridge, building back into final chorus with a tag at the end. And not only that, if Taylor Swift™ took these songs and sang them, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

The second to last song, “Bad Break,” reminded me a lot of Two Door Cinema Club’s “I Can Talk” with driving synth and groovy with a chorus comprised of 10 unique words. As someone who commented on the soundcloud at Stereogum, Brendan Volk, said, “not bad.” (Comment at 1:13)

The album closes with a “I’m Only Dreaming” which revisits and connects back to the string of ideas that exist in the album and then also brings closure with thoughts about moving on. Overall, though a little bit synthesizer-heavy for my taste, Souvenir is a truly well-written album with ideas that most, if not all, people can relate to.

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives “Souvenir” a 9.2/10.