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Pop Etc

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Album Review

When long-running indie unit the Morning Benders changed their name in early 2012, it was the last logical step in a series of changes that preceded it, having moved from San Francisco to Brooklyn, switched up their band membership, and — as evidenced by their debut as POP ETC — lost almost all of their indie rock and chamber pop leanings in favor for a stab at the kind of hyper-produced R&B-informed pop that defines early-2010s mainstream radio. The Morning Benders cycled through some pretty heavy borrowing phases, first from the Shins' gloomily romantic indie sound and later from Grizzly Bear's rustic acoustic orchestrations. The self-titled debut from POP ETC says goodbye to all that, salvaging only the most basic elements of bandleader Christopher Chu's songwriting sensibilities and switching out the melancholic rock forms of the past for Auto-Tuned vocals and minimal yet huge electronic beats. Working with producer Andrew Dawson (who has crafted hits for Lil Wayne and Kanye West, among others), POP ETC is a decided attempt at the most manicured pop album possible. From the opening notes of the appropriately titled first track, "New Life," POP ETC sound like they've been listening to the self-analyzing hip-hop of Drake and the-Dream more than any band within a hundred yards of Sub Pop Records. The song's icy synth bassline and detached vocal delivery looking over the ashes of a failed relationship seem cribbed from the kind of public meltdown diary entry beats that Kanye made his millions on, taking more from the pop and R&B elements than any direct hip-hop reappropriation. The dramatic shift in style isn't a failing for the album. The results are as fun and exciting as any of the better disposable ear candy of bands like Phoenix or Julian Casablancas' solo material. Upbeat party banger "Back to Your Heart" or the Danger Mouse-produced "Keep It for Your Own" blend Chu's gift for hooky harmonies with perfectly constructed arrangements and plenty of big-budget studio gloss.


Formed: 2012 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

In the midst of relocating from San Francisco to Brooklyn, slickly polished indie rock quartet the Morning Benders parted ways with bassist Tim Or and changed their name to POP ETC. This decision came after the band toured extensively and learned that the word "bender" had some homophobic slang connotations in parts of the U.K. In a press release regarding the name change, the band stated "We simply cannot go on using a name that is demeaning to the gay community. The reason we are making music is...
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Pop Etc, POP ETC
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