I’m not going to lie, at the first traces of synths and ’80s disco in The Soundmen’s self-titled debut EP, I nearly abandoned ship. I wasn’t ready for round two of my Hellogoodbye phase if the rest of the album was anything similar to what I was hearing. My skepticism of the DJ duo from Seattle was overwhelming; they were outside the confines of my usual indie, folk, and indie-pop repertoire. Adding to my concerns was the fact that most of their discography consisted almost entirely of remixes, a word closely associated with club music.
But as “End of Time” swelled to an airy falsetto and a really catchy chorus, it became significantly harder to reject The Soundmen. The simplicity made it accessible, with a beat that was basic and easy to follow. Perhaps not exactly characterized by complex craftsmanship or lyrical depth, but it was intriguing. The overall sound was what I imagined would result if Passion Pit decided to become an A-ha cover band.
As I progressed further into the album, I began to realize that I had discovered an animal of a foreign breed. I was glad I didn’t give up on the first song, because every song was like a new pattern in the quilt that is this album.
I returned on my journey through the album, moving on to songs such as “With You” and “My Friends,” which had my head bobbing, but for two completely different reasons. “With You” fell more along the lines of dubstep/club with unexpected bouts of brass; “My Friends” incited a natural gravitation as it struck notes of indie-pop that I was familiar with. Even then, The Soundmen set foot in a territory that’s ill-defined with a subtle back drop of dubstep, hints of pop, and even some rap. It wasn’t dubstep in the annoying, repetitive way that always pushes me away from the genre. It was energetic, bright, and youthful.
But “Games We Play” pushed The Soundmen more clearly into the category of dubstep. Delving into the swirly unknown world of electronica and dance music, I felt a little lost and unsure. It was exactly the kind of music I was trying to avoid.
In “Funny Feeling,” The Soundmen slowed down the pace with a lethargic, kind of vocal reminiscent of The XX. But of course, the elements of dubstep and pop infused some musical caffeine into the song, pushing it forward and keeping it from falling into the coma that The XX is sometimes known to induce.
The Soundmen’s strengths lie in their experimentation of blending various genres of music. But lyrics with an undeniably “YOLO” mentality, like, “We dance until we’re soaking wet/We smoke too many cigarettes” have a high potential to push listeners away. Of course, one could easily shelve The Soundmen into the category of “anthems for party-going youths,” but the musical ingenuity merits a second chance. And to be frank, even the EDM-averse type just needs a good soundtrack to dance to once in a while.
Written by Juhee Lee