⭐⭐⭐Rating: 3 out of 5.
It doesn’t need to be said how much of a bummer this year, and especially this long summer, has been for a lot of us. The world has felt pretty apocalyptic at times, with headlines trying to outdo one another on how ridiculous and sad they are. With this backdrop, Michelle Zaumer of Japanese Breakfast and Ryan Galloway of Crying teamed up and released the simply titled pop songs 2020, as their project BUMPER. Zaumer and Galloway collaborated on this EP strictly on email, and it shows in the music. The stakes are extremely low – it feels like just two friends bouncing ideas off each other – and the results are an easygoing, fun, but also layered debut effort.
pop songs 2020 demonstrates the musical one-two between Zaumer and Galloway from the start, with the title track ‘You Can Get It’ featuring playful synth tones, a fun pan flute refrain, and punchy metallic drums in the background, combining to create a unique sound adjacent to vapourwave with some 80s quirks, but still easy to listen to and effortlessly entertaining. The verse is contrasted by a lush chorus that features delicate chime arpeggios that complement Zaumer’s confident performance well. The sudden guitar solo at the end barges through the mix and ends the track on a high.
This eccentric blend of conflicting sounds continue to mix well and succeed through the next two tracks ‘Black Light’ and ‘Red Brick’. Repeating drones start ‘Black Light’, with a glitchy drum sequence creating a tense backdrop. This is offset in the pre-chorus with calm piano chords, before coming back in full swing during the chorus. The track also features a soaring synth solo that provides an exciting interlude. ‘Red Brick’ kick off with angelic strings, which transition into an eclectic sound, through some mischievous wood block percussion and sarcastic xylophones. In the second half, Zaumer and Galloway introduce some interesting rhythm changes, held together by tight percussion sounds and capped off with a crashing timpani to bring us back to the chorus. The EP’s closer ‘Ballad 0’ is the weakest track on the project, but still a good track. While the pianos and strings work beautifully to create a forlorn feeling, Zaumer’s vocal performance is masked by a vocal effect that covers the song’s emotional honesty. Otherwise, it could have played foil exceptionally to the rest of the project’s idiosyncratic style.
Overall, BUMPER’s first offering is a great taster for what they can bring. Zaumer’s overarching optimism melds flawlessly with Galloway’s acute attention to tight rhythms and expressive melodies. While a little repetitive in sound, pop songs 2020 brings a much needed positivity to an otherwise awful year.
Image: Ethan Miller via Getty Images