Are you a music fatalist? After all, there’s only so many permutations of notes, such a limited number of genres, so few feasible combinations of instruments. Signs everywhere point gloomily to the end of song, the end of audience and hell, the end of criticism. It’s enough to make a girl like me want to give up, trading in my laptop and taking up a new hobby—maybe writing about dog shows or boat races.
But then again, there’s the revelry of the familiar, and the intrigue that erupts when a form of the past is suddenly brought into the present. This is the territory of Astropop 3, a four-piece out of Virginia who play airy, fresh pop music with a sincerity and directness that’s sometimes hard to find.
Eclipsing Binary Star is a 12-song collection that at first seems like nothing more than a bootleg of rare, early Velocity Girl b-sides. The songs are temperate in tempo and terrain; per their name, the lyrics bounce into the cosmos but largely keep at least one foot on the ground. The guitars are clean but not particularly noteworthy; the drums keep time but not much more. Dan Villanueva and Angelique Everett share the vocals, both offering sugary, digestible tones that are miscible with the laid back musical landscape of the album. And the tracks tend to run into one another, as few sharp edges stick up from the smooth surface to either amaze or offend.
But with a careful listen, it’s clear that this smoothness is rather like a pearl, and rises out of an appreciation for the exquisiteness of simplicity. That becomes most clear on “No Time for Me”, the first song on the album where Angelique and Dan trade off vocals. Their play is so sweet and earnest—like lovers or friends who’ve written verses for one another—that it’s nearly impossible not to find it endearing. Accompanied by a rolling organ and those noisy-yet-pleasant guitar chords, the song ends warmly, delightfully. This mood reverberates throughout “Starscream”, a wide open, twinkling tune that continues the singing pair’s bright, vocal volley.
So rehear the opening track, “The Courage to Be Great Lies in Every One of Us” as the first page of a familiar fairy tale—which you may be able to predict, but you read over and over again anyway. Or the straight-ahead rhythms and happy-go-lucky melody of “Lost in a Dream” as a pointed effort to be nothing more than what it is are—a refreshing visit to pleasant memories.
It may not be totally new, but who said anything had to be? There’s plenty that sweet and just plain right about a love song, the poetry of a starry night, an ode to a good friend. And even in those predictable moments, as Astropop 3 sing, “there’s gotta be something more”.
// Notes from the Road
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