Smart lyrics, punky rhythms and metallic riffs come together to make an unforgettable thrill ride in Dizzy Box Nine’s all new album Pop Fantasy. Thirteen stylishly appointed tracks blast us with everything from huge harmonies, like those in “Anytime, Anyplace,” “Lost and Found” and the brute “Maybe,” to thunderous storms of percussion and gilded bass, ala “Happy Birthday,” “Talk Dirty to Me” and “Hello Baby”, the latter of which just might be the catchiest song of the new year. Though indebted to traditional pop construction, Pop Fantasy is anything but predictable; it lashes out with vivacious color that you don’t normally find in this strain of music, peppering every one of its melodies with carnal rock flare that leaves a lasting impression.

The hooks that Pop Fantasy catapults in our direction are never anything other than crystal clear shards of tonality. They’re effervescent and sparkly, yet remarkably straightforward and simple, coming at us so fast in “Yesterday” and to a lesser degree in “Forever in my Dreams,” that they rob the studded vocal harmonies of the spotlight on more than one occasion. “Forever in my Dreams” is actually one of the more indulgent songs on the record, along with the strutting “Rosie” and the sizzling “What I Like About You”, but even when these tracks explore their sonic depth with a seemingly formless approach, they never get so far off the beaten path that we start to lose sight of this album’s nimble, cohesive concept.

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This record flows with such a steady fluidity that it’s easy to listen to as a complete piece in a single sitting. “Hello Baby” bleeds right into “Rosie” and the slowed down “I Won’t Let You Down,” without ever skipping a beat. Despite the songs having quite contrasting tempos and stylization, they all seem to perfectly fit together in one cohesive element. I doubt that Dizzy Box Nine designed this LP to be a concept album, but they definitely made sure to cut any filler from their repertoire before ever committing these tracks to record. There’s too much focus in their play and the production for me to think otherwise, and I would even argue that this is one area that they’ve improved upon more explicitly than any other in the time that’s passed since releasing their debut record Electric Illusion in 2017.

Addictively hooky and sublimely slick, Pop Fantasy represents a breakthrough moment for these Southern Californian indie rockers and offers listeners a surreal look into the artistry of one of the underground’s most exciting and original pop/rock units. Dizzy Box Nine pull out all the stops here, laying into covers like “Just Like Heaven” as if they were their own songs. And, for all of the obvious camp and bombastic flavor that they added into these tunes, none of it ever feels disingenuous nor stretches the limits of their accessibility. This is intelligent rock n’ roll that does so much more than shake our souls with blistering bass and drum shenanigans. It challenges the narrative of modern pop, which is pretty much the definition of inventiveness.

Sebastian Cole