The Morning Benders were always a band favored more by Pandora than listeners. Their tracks were bright and fun and the perfect accompaniment to that Peter Bjorn and John song that Pandora always played too, regardless of what Indie band you started with. Just a few months ago the band changed it’s name to POP ETC in response to learning that their former name was in some regions a crude and derogatory term. POP ETC, they felt, was appropriate, because Pop is so many more things than the public tend to pigeonhole it as. That may be true, but it doesn’t mean that letting it be all those things at once is a good idea.
Most of the music here is made from bright electronic bloops that sound like some cross between synths stomping on rainbows or a child dancing around on those oversized floor pianos you find in Macy’s. This is to say, it’s somewhat unbearably saccharine. Along with the brightness is a strong bass texture which adds to the stomp-along-ability of these tracks. It’s a solid trick, this darker tone hiding behind the rest. Otherwise there’s little variation from this general style. On Keep It For Your Own we get acoustic strums and geisha-like keys down the sides. The bass is a little funky too. It’s different enough to be the standout track here.
The vocals on this album are largely just as bright as the instruments. It’s some bizarre vaguely autotuned cross between Owl City and trying to sound seductive (that’s three negatives, if Owl City didn’t provide enough context clues). Back to Your Heart opens with, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”, and it’s probably enough of a sugar overdose to make most listeners back off.
The listener is likely to already be cringing after that, which is the perfect way to continue into the lyrics. Following those “Yeah!”s are lines like, “Let me take this straight from the top, we were making love and we couldn’t stop,” and, “Now it’s three in the middle of the night, and I’m screaming baby lets not fight.” Album opener New Life starts with desperate surface level pleas, “Every day I wonder if he’s hurting.” He begins to repeat, “If I could give it all back for just one more day with you.” Late album track Whyd (sic) You Do it Honey gives us, “I was gonna ask you to be my wife, I was gonna ask you to share my life.” It’s a blunt attempt at coldness, the only track of that style, and it comes across about as forcefully as everything else.
POP ETC will still show up on Pandora, even if it’s not off of this album. They’re aiming for that brand of broadly appealing Indie Pop that Pandora loves. POP ETC’s debut on their new name, however, is far, far too broad and simplistic. The band has noted that they have reworked their sound under this new name. Perhaps they’ll look for another name next time around.