Styrofoam Nothing’s Lost

[Morr Music; 2004]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: techno-pop, glitch, plasti-sheen balladry
Others: The Notwist, Dntel, Postal Service

Pop music isn't defined by popularity. It doesn't have to be on a major label. So what the hell is it? From the first few tracks of Nothing's Lost, I get a very poppy feeling. It's something about those keening harmonies and the way they sound like they'd be right at home in a car commercial aimed at my demographic (20-30). A big part of it is linked to Ben Gibbard's forlorn, tender vocals and the way they glaringly wear their heart on their sleeve. This is immediate sicky-sweetness that one could call 'pretty' and not be trite.

It's pop in that the warped electronica textures utilized work more to bolster the ballads than to overtake them. The cascading drums on "Your Eyes Only," for example, are ever-present, yet take a backseat to the shameless preciousness of the melodies. Maybe that's what makes me think 'pop' when I listen to this. The music appeals to the cutesy leanings we have wholly and unabashedly internalized, while it skips and clicks 'n cuts away in a modernist fashion.

The first track sticks out because it manages to make a typically edgy rap by Alias feel right at home amidst all the shimmery, plastic production. My adjectives can't help but take on a pejorative bent, because, like many, I snatched up Neon Golden since it was included in Pitchfork's Best New Music section. And it completely annoyed the shit out of me (so did Postal Service btw). So I'm obviously not into this sing-songy, saccharine techno blip-blop. BIASED REVIEWER ALERT!!

Well, shit. This objectivity thing is tricky sometimes. I'm sure there are a ton of you that'll zoom along in your Passats and bob your heads joyously on the way to the discoteque with this zippy CD. It's catchy enough and 'pretty' as an unopened mint. But it falls short of making this reviewer want to retain his objectivity because it's just so precious. It's like if someone put together a sentimental montage of Pokemon (last-episode-of-Seinfeld style) scenes, Nothing's Lost would be the soundtrack. It simply lacks even the remotest kind of emotional weight, favoring that emo-lite, predictable kind of melodic progressions that make you swoon the same way a hot muffin on a cold day might.

There is definitely an accomplished producer at work here; I just wish he would use his skills to a more original end. There's something nauseatingly familiar about this music, and not even the guy from American Analog Set can save that. And objectivity tells me that there are electronic artists broadening their horizons (even with pop formats) in much more rewarding ways.

1. Misguided
2. Ticket Out of Town
3. Couches In Alleys
4. Beequeen
5. Your Eyes Only
6. Front to Back
7. Safe + Broken
8. Anything
9. Make It Mine