A pulsating explosion of percussion, reminiscent of a rapidly beating heart, acts as our introduction to “Anytime, Anyplace” and Pop Fantasy, the highly anticipated second album from California’s own Dizzy Box Nine. The drums explode in fire and fury, setting the pace for a bittersweet vocal to wrap itself around the robotic bass and guitar. As the riffs fade to black, we’re quickly counted in to “Yesterday,” a bright punker that flies through passionately delivered lyrics with an urgency that is provocative and unapologetic. “Like a Star” slows us down for a split-second, but then quickly gets back into the swing of its counterparts, dispensing an affectionate harmony for every pummeling attack it allows from the drums. You don’t have to be familiar with Dizzy Box Nine to fall hard for their latest collection of highly addictive songs, but longtime fans will instantly notice how polished their sound has become since the release of their debut LP two years ago.
The bold balladry of “Forever in my Dreams” builds on the calming melodies of “Like a Star” but also helps to set the stage for “Lost and Found” to throw down its pseudo-blues stomp. The mid-album spellbinder “Maybe” provides one of the best moments that Pop Fantasy has to offer. “Maybe” is built around an ascending harmony that jettisons away from its chunky guitar riff but comes back around for the climactic chorus. It makes sense that they would follow this track up with a cover of The Cure’s legendary “Just Like Heaven,” which sort of balances out the eccentricities of the album’s first half with the more conventional grooves of its second.
Microburst “Happy Birthday” buffers the space between “Just Like Heaven” and the impatient punk rock of “What I Like About You” wonderfully, but that isn’t its sole purpose. There’s no pointless filler to be skipped over in Pop Fantasy; only varying levels of uncaged musical depth and tonality, and believe me, Dizzy Box Nine aren’t reticent about turning over every stone on this album in search of rendering a mind-bending melody. They do as much in their spirited cover of Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” (which I actually prefer to the original) and of course “Hello Baby,” Pop Fantasy’s evocative crown jewel bruiser. This song is so fun and easy to repeat that it won’t take much to get it stuck in your head for an indefinite amount of time, and I speak from experience.
Pop Fantasy comes to a conclusion with the exotic Weezer-esque balladry of “Rosie” and the atmospheric “I Won’t Let You Down,” which departs from the shake and quake sound of the other twelve songs and touches on ambient territory before finally disappearing in a distorted tizzy of overdriven guitar play. From start to finish, Dizzy Box Nine’s successor to Electric Illusion captivates us with its meticulously crafted melodies, brooding lyricism and stellar rhythm. Defined not by the band’s previous recordings but by their ever-expanding ambitions, I highly recommend Pop Fantasy to music aficionados who can appreciate a sweet indie rock treasure when they hear one. It’s nice to see a band be able to complete a full album, and actually have something interesting to say. This record, put simply, is a real standout.