Bright, bubbly, pop music just might be the genre necessary for these long months of quarantine. BUMPER, a musical duo featuring Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast and Ryan Galloway of Crying Form, recently released a four song EP aptly titled “Pop Songs 2020”.
Even though both musicians currently reside in Brooklyn, the project was constructed over a series of email exchanges. While this unique creation format speaks to the power of present day technology it is also a telling reminder of some of the challenges musicians, and collaborative creatives in general, are currently facing as a result of the pandemic.
Perhaps as a result of the email-driven creation process, “Pop Songs 2020” is a trim four songs, the title of the EP alluding to the simple and light nature of the musical material. Opening track, “You Can Get It” showcases the happy vibes BUMPER hopes to achieve right away. Glittering synths abound around Zauner’s voice as she delivers a catchy chorus yearning to be present and work together with a special partner. Galloway contributes with a slick guitar solo at the song’s end that harmonizes snuggly with the vocals.
The following song, “Black Light” features more ominous production, as a darker synth throbs in the background. As the song progresses, a robotic cast of sounds joins the production as lyrics detail a rendezvous during a dark night filled with flashing lights. “Red Brick” brings back a catchy danceable sound and is a good encapsulation of the EP as a whole.
The closing track, “Ballad 0”, is the most memorable selection and also the song most closely resembling Zauner’s material as Japanese Breakfast. A melodic piano serves as the backdrop for Zauner’s lyrics whose sharp specificity lends her message an emotional poignancy missing on the first three songs (“You picked me up, had me screaming, showing off those lighter tricks I once was so fond of”). If Galloway is trying his hand at the keys, it is most certainly working here.
This EP is a neat artistic departure for Michelle Zauner, whose vocals have never had such a pop-driven bent to their delivery. All told, these tracks are a fun batch of pop songs to lighten your load during the present moment. If this EP were a bagel, it would have poppy seeds.