The first recording from Louisiana headquartered electro pop duo StonerPop is a five song EP collection with impressive diversity. The duo offers up both upbeat and downcast material and shows great comfort performing from both postures. DIY production is obviously the order of the day with a debut release of this nature, but StonerPop achieve all of their obvious goals with professional fidelity and an attention to detail longtime listeners might associate with veteran acts instead of emerging talents. Maudie Michelle and Jimmie Maneuva are StonerPop – the first handles vocals and co-writes songs with the duo’s main musical mastermind, Maneuva. They avoid any self indulgence during their actual performances and keep the running time for each song well within reason. An EP can encompass a great deal of sonic and thematic ground, but it should overall give listeners a concise representation of the artist’s talents and the self-titled effort from StonerPop does exactly that.

The EP’s first track “Preachers” has some vague lyrics, but the general sense is that Michelle is looking back on some sort of oppression and injury she experienced and how she deals with it. Her voice hangs back some and gives a sort of studied performance, but there are passages where she’s gloriously emotive and conveys a lot to the listener. The musical backing is sparse. StonerPop often introduces new elements to the song for a short time before they end and the musical foundation of the track creates a lot of open space in the song for a slightly cinematic effect. StonerPop’s second track, “Running”, doesn’t leave as much empty space as we heard on the first track, but there’s a signature sound emerging from the band’s material. Their imaginative approach to composition that says they need structure but, once having established that structure, are free to do whatever they want within its confines has a liberating result on their songwriting. “Running” satisfies a number of expectations, but it also throws more than a few surprises into the song for listeners.

“You’re Never Listening (Get Over Yourself)” features Michelle on vocals, but her voice is much flatter here and drained of warmth in comparison to her earlier performances. The fuzzed out synth pulse looming over the song gives it a darker heart than anything we heard in the preceding song. There’s some light post-production effects applied to Michelle’s voice on “Monsters” and it helps accentuate its introspective feel. The music has a similarly haunted quality and takes its time setting scenes. Some of this song seems to look back to childhood, some of it seems grounded in the present, but it’s overall one of the finer lyric inventions on this release. The languid tempo takes an unexpected turn in the track’s second half that makes it feel more inward than ever before.

StonerPop finishes the album with “Fox” and its guest lead vocal from Porcelain People’s Fred Kalil. This has strong, natural sounding drumming and Kalil’s vocals are much more involved and consistently present than the offerings from Michelle on the earlier songs. These final two cuts underline the duo’s melodic virtues more than the preceding tracks and brings the release to a memorable close.

9 out of 10 stars


Montey Zike