Maudie Michelle and Jimmie Maneuva, otherwise known as StonerPop, are an electro pop duo hailing from the Deep South whose five song debut EP has its own unique take on electronica utterly distinct from similar works in this vein. The duo eschew any overt experimentation in favor of a musical approach that challenges tweaks listener’s expectations about structure without ever completely upending its accessibility. There’s a great deal of melody in the EP’s five songs, but StonerPop treat such normally solid elements like tempo as elastic features in a song and their music can take any number of turns during the course of one of these tracks that might last a while or just a few seconds. This is a band unafraid of taking listeners on a very personal musical journey while still serving up an entertaining sonic experience that satisfies them in a purely physical or instinctual way.
“Preachers” has rumbling bursts of bass emerging at various points during the track and half formed synth melodies that come chiming out of the mix. Maudie Michelle’s vocals have a half ethereal, half woozy quality that contrasts sharply with the musical backing. Much of the arrangement on this song has minimal aims and accomplishes much with seemingly little effort. “Running” fades in with some lightly threatening synth lines before swaths of percussion and a fat bass pulse emerge alongside Michelle’s voice. The contrast between her vocals and the backing are once again striking, the composition clutters things up a little more on the crescendos but otherwise maintains much of the same stripped back approach defining the first song, and there’s atmospherics present in this performance that the former track couldn’t touch. A skeletal and fuzzed out synthesizer melody starts “You’re Never Listening” and is soon joined by brief flurries of percussion that sound quite live instead of machine produced. Michelle’s vocal shows off the flexibility of her voice with its distinctly different tone compared to earlier performances. This is, arguably, the album’s darkest track and doesn’t have any of the same higher register keyboard work heard in the earlier songs.
Listeners go back to that though on the next track. “Monsters” opens with some scattered piano flourishes, ambient effects, and an assortment of cascading synth lines, keyboard fills, and understated percussion. This is musically quite delicate, but Michelle and Maneuva keep control of the piece with intelligence and clarity of vision. This is, without a doubt, the best lyric on the release and suggests it is a deeply personal moment for its vocalist. They shift things up some for a musically surprising second half. Fred Kalil of Porcelain People guests on the EP’s finale “Fox” and his ragged, but profoundly melodic and emotive, vocals are a perfect thing to juxtapose against the duo’s electro pop vision. The recurring piano figure that keeps up through the song might seem unduly simple, but when you couple it with the myriad of other musical elements making this song go, it’s makes for a memorable hook and knows exactly when to change direction. Few debuts of any length and from any genre will impress listeners as much as this offering from StonerPop. Their self titled EP has a great grasp of the fundamentals needed to get over with an audience but gives them so much more in the end.
9 out of 10 stars