Cover Art: Alex Chen
Its signature sound defines electronic pop music: a synth going wild in the background, building up to a satisfying drop. Often, a prominent beat accompanies the singer’s vocals, and the chorus is composed of long “empty” segments of instrumentals. This subgenre of electropop, “synth-pop,” has been around since the ‘70s and grew in popularity throughout the early 2000s as club music. In recent years, mainstream pop music has a heavy reliance on this sound because it is so catchy, can make up for mediocre vocals, and produce harmless songs for the average listener. In my opinion, this type of music follows a distinct formula and can become repetitive; however, they are earworms, and I can never stand still when listening to these songs. I find myself moving with the music regardless of the setting. For example, Smallpools; they’re an American indie electro-pop band that I feel does it well. They have such an erosive discography, and I’ll try my best to describe the vibe of their different types of music. Starting with their Lovetap! album, “American Love” and “Lovetap!” leave pockets of accompanying instrumentals while lead singer Sean Scanlon spits out short phrases and harmonizing “ohs” and “ahs.” The guitar and drums are in the spotlight, the former of which dishes out a trio of chords, and the latter goes all out on the snare and hi-hat. The synths are blaring, and a higher pitch than Scanlon’s already falsetto voice. These songs strive to get the listener to throw away their current worries and enjoy the present. They make you feel like the main character in a movie. They get you to romanticize your youth, dance as if everyone was watching, and “care about nothing real at all,” as described by Austin360's SXSW Spotlight. Though these songs empower a person, electropop can also be used for a darker and moodier approach. “Centerfold” off of The Science of Letting Go EP is for when you’re going through the works. This song’s subject matter is darker, discussing self-loathing and the various f-ups during a person’s youth. The music reflects this in the solely instrumental bridges that give you a breather and a moment of lyrical reflection. As Scanlon says, “You’ve come to face your flaws on the centerfold.” With these songs, listeners can find a sort of solace, a way to let their negative emotions out, and be sad. For a teenager, being able to come to terms with negative emotions is crucial to promote mental growth and stability. It provides you an outlet to come to terms with yourself and wallow, even if the world doesn’t care, these songs are written by someone who has been here before.
Although Smallpools is only one example of many artists who expand and diversify the sound of electropop, they give insight into why the body will physically react. The goal is to have simulating songs that get the person to feel, whether it be badass or downright sad. The themes are reflected musically but often are overlooked on the first listen-but you can feel it. Safe to say, this genre has your next jam session covered.