by: Emilee Aldridge
Release Date: January 29, 2016
Four years after the release of POP ETC’s self-titled album, the indie rock trio are back with their second LP entitled Souvenir. The eccentric POP ETC three-piece consists of lead vocalist Christopher Chu, drummer Julian Harmon, and guitarist Jonathan Chu.
We decided to take our time with this one, making a promise to ourselves that we wouldn’t release ANYTHING until all three of us felt like we had put every ounce of our hearts and souls into it. -POP ETC
Souvenir starts strong with the tune, Please Don’t Forget Me. Right off the bat, listeners are met with a feeling of loss. Detailing a relationship that had turned sour, vocalist Chu acknowledges his mistakes, but begs the former counterpart to try to recall the good parts of the relationship.
The album continues with Vice, and I Wanted To Change The World But The World Changed Me. Both tracks utilize the band’s talents, with the ever enrapturing synthesizer and bass parts. With I Wanted To Change The World But The World Changed Me, a message of hope shines a subtle light. I interpreted the song in a way that people go into the world with dreams and plans, but when misfortune rears its head, we may allow ourselves to be hardened by the world. On the flip side, a glimmer of hope remains because there is always the opportunity to go back and find the person that you used to be.
Running In Circles, released in 2015, was the first single from Souvenir that hit radio waves. I found this tune to be almost hypnotic, as my mind began to drift into a completely different world.
What Am I Becoming? is the group’s current single, and quite the standout track. Reiterating how experiences in life may change an individual, What Am I Becoming? explores how perseverance provides comfort as the “shadows start to feel like home”. With a robust bass line, and infallible vocals, this tune is arguably the strongest one on the record.
After two vivacious songs in a row, POP ETC slows it down a bit with Backwards World. Taking a step back from the synthesizer, Chu’s modest vocals shine through, blending beautifully with the guitar, and various percussive elements.
Throughout the record, there is definitely consistent theme of pain, and loss. Your Heart Is A Weapon appears to explore the pain of somebody using your own affection, and infatuation against you. On the other end, Beating My Head Against The Wall appears to delve into the frustration of trying to feel something that you just cannot feel.
Although I was a mere child during this time, Bad Break gives me serious 90’s vibes. The heavy synthesizer elements, and tenacious guitar create an upbeat mood for a rather gloomy song. Bad Break details the need to find the way out of a rut, after catching a “bad break” (go figure!). With a melancholy finish, Souvenir closes out with the ataractic I’m Only Dreaming. In this final tune, we find Chu searching for the place where he lost himself.
After such a cohesive album like Souvenir, my only real gripe about this album is the length. Although POP ETC is able to delve into an array of emotions, and satisfy listeners throughout a ten-song record, I find myself wanting more. But hey, that is not necessarily a bad thing. This only creates a higher anticipation for the next record. This record stays true to the theme of love, loss, pain, and hope. Souvenir seamlessly marries the concept of life obstacles that stand in the way of growth, with the triumphs that make all the trials and tribulations worth it.