There’s something thrilling about hearing pop music perfectly performed. The style has been done to death, and in the last twenty years or so, it’s been pretty bad. But when it’s done right, pop music can still be magical, as it is on The All-About’s Winterpop. Zac Coe has somehow managed to pen eleven songs that work together or alone equally well. Lifting any one song off the record you could find a hit, but it’s best to listen to it all the way through so you get the full arc of the album.
If you’re looking to just cherrypick some highlights, start with the second track, “Occupy My Heart.” Even with the backing synth derivative of MGMT’s “Kids,” The All-About keeps it fresh with lyrical content written by someone just old enough to have a little perspective on the matters of the heart while you’re in high school. I’ve been taken with the opening line of the song, which would make it seem like the writer is remembering a time long in the past, which it may seem to have been due to our constant detachment from other people coupled with our bizarre longing for days of the past.
“Could it be anymore typical of me to be blown away by signs of life suburban towns and open skies. And a barefoot girl I’m always told I’m so young but I felt her with the windows down, we brandished our youth around like kids on a mission.”
Coe seems transfixed on this detachment, as he sings about it on a couple songs. The opener deals with it pretty straight on: “I’m losing touch with all my friends, I guess I’ll probably see this through, cause I don’t know what else to do.” It’s a sly thing to take a topic like the human condition and make it funny and dance-y. I suppose I’d compare his songwriting to the films written by Charlie Kaufmann (though not as cerebral). They both take things that are very serious and turn them around in circles so the audience can see/hear the humor and the sadness.
There’s a sing-a-long quality to the way Zac delivers his lines that makes listening to Winterpop a very enjoyable experience. There are some fine songwriters out there who just don’t have the voice to elevate the material. One song that stands out in my mind that I can compare this to is The Mountain Goats “No Children.” Until you’ve been to a show and heard a thousand or so people sing “I hope you die. I hope we both die,” you haven’t lived. It’s the most surreal feeling, but at the same time there’s a universality to what Darnielle is writing about. The same can be said for The All-About.
There’s a lot of great stuff to be found here. Whether you enjoy the Vaccines-referencing “Post Break-Up Texts” or the synthy 80’s-driven “Lovesick Anthem,” I think there’s something for just about everyone. Winterpop is a throwback of my favorite variety, spending equal time on the sound and the message. It also features contributions from some people that I think are doing great things up in New York, including Layne Montgomery of The Great American Novel and Josh Aubin of Sons Of An Illustrious Father. If it’s been a while since you listened to a pop album, Winterpop would be a nice place to hop back in.
It’s a free download, so no excuses.