We all tend to reflect on an artist’s career and track the musical endeavors of each down many windy paths. The Brooklyn based group has traveled down one such path. The result? POP ETC’s (former the Morning Benders) career, albeit short, is now a bittersweet dichotomy. The Morning Benders’s original flavor, stripped down indie-rock accompanied by founder Chris Chu’s crafty vocals was a welcome change, like adding peanut butter to a s’more. Big Echo saw the Morning Benders mature as artists from their debut album Talking Through Tin Cans. They developed a bigger sound while maintaining an acoustic campire feel throughout, making their music inclusively original in a highly competitive genre. The buildups and releases in tracks like “Mason Jar” and “Stitches” further defined the band as an up-and-coming staple of independent music. They embraced a creative clarity in composition that became their own.
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POP ETC is a complete abandonment of the niche the trio found since forming at UC Berkely in 2006. Once original and intuitive, POP ETC has disappointed by writing songs that only surface concepts of love and relationship, themes that ran deep throughout Big Echo. The LP is waterlogged with auto-tune and synth, leaving the overly poppy sounds a detriment to the finished product.
I understand that bands have to (and should) flex their creative muscles. For POP ETC, this is a missed opportunity to develop the originality of sound they were refining during Big Echo. The new R&B/Pop t-shirt just fits too tight on these guys. Although discouraging, this case is nothing new; we have seen musical experiments from our favorite artists both flourish and fail. Hopefully POP ETC becomes nostalgic of their days of strings, tambourines and sing-a-longs, but a resurrection does not seem probable. Rather than a statement piece, POP ETC is something I’d like to forget. POP ETC’s self-titled debut LP drops on June 12th. Stream the album now over at MTV.