Louisiana’s tandem StonerPop are an electro pop duo whose debut and self-titled five song EP contains enough musical imagination to suggest that Maudie Michelle and her artistic partner in crime Jimmie Maneuva may be game-changing figures in this genre. There’s seemingly no end to the keyboard and synthesizer textures that the duo employs over the course of this release and their unerring instinct for where to place these individual parts is second to none, especially in light of their young age. They use a variety of approaches to percussion and bass in the songs, as well, that few listeners will expect. The songs on this self-titled debut are also lyrically involved affairs that don’t settle for placeholder lines – each song has a narrative and message of some sort looking to engage listeners and a strong vocal approach that nicely complements the electronica.  

“Preachers” starts off the EP with a relatively pensive number. StonerPop doesn’t feel any compulsion to fill all the available space with sound. Instead, they take a surprisingly judicious approach to composition that retains a strong capacity for surprising the listener. StonerPop frequently pulls out all of their imaginative stops in an effort to win over listeners, but they do it in often unexpected ways – new instrumental voices emerge, percussion changes its tone, and Michelle’s vocals take on varying hues. She gives us a very dramatic performance on the EP’s second song “Running”. There are some heated passages in this song that sharply contrast with its more restrained sections. The song is a clinic of sorts for the duo to demonstrate their mastery of song dynamics and how a performance can gain immensely from manipulating them. “You’re Never Listening” takes on an almost industrial sounding tempo for much of the song and has a sustained distorted synth note buzzing over the mix. It’s the album’s most intense electronic attack on the EP and gives listeners a steady battering without ever over-exaggerating its effects. Michelle’s vocal is quite different here from the earlier performances and relies more on a lifeless, mechanical tone suggesting a lot of emotional distance from its subject. 

The clouds clear and melody regains a deeper foothold on the album’s penultimate release “Monsters”. Much of this comes from the sparkling electric piano phrases that light up the song, but there’s a hint of something darker lurking around the edges that dovetails nicely with the lyrics. Michelle’s singing here is her voice at its most open and vulnerable – she is clearly investing all of herself into the song and it fits the piano playing well. Guest vocalist Fred Kalil doesn’t sound at all out of place on the final track “Fox”. The inklings of darkness seeping in around the edges of the earlier song disappear here and StonerPop gives listeners their best commercial face while showing them the door. It’s a good decision to end this EP on such a comparatively upbeat note. Their self-titled debut is a surprisingly varied collection for such a short release and sets the stage for the duo to make the deepest possible impact with their next, likely full length, release.  

9 out of 10 stars 


Aaron Ellis