Coming at you with a barrage of dissonant guitars not unlike that of Yo La Tengo or Pavement, Pope Factory proves that Sloan isn’t the only good indie rock coming from north of the American border. Hailing from Toronto, the band appears with a self-titled debut EP that runs the gamut from dirgy, anti-melodic rants to shimmering, noisy pop.
While Pope Factory isn’t always an easy listen (“Smug” can be as unsettling as Superchunk’s most difficult work), the band shows a brilliant ability to take catchy melodies and tear them apart, often times then pulling them back together into a hummable bliss. “Sweet Killings” starts off with one acoustic guitar playing folk, transforms into power pop, and then segues into avant-noise stylings similar to those June of 44. The sound keeps growing louder and more abrasive, until suddenly, without warning, the song turns into pop not unlike that found on Jim O’Rourke’s Eureka album from earlier this year. Later, on “Micheal’s Haircut,” three-part harmonies are sung until an onslaught of broken soloing swallows up the sugary vocals.
With a wildly diverse palate of influences, Pope Factory at times sounds like a mix tape of indie rock’s all-time greats. “Channeling Ringo” feels like Tortoise for half of its six minutes before transforming into a nod to Pavement’s “Ode to Begin.” And the hidden track at the end of the EP has the feel of the Dismemberment Plan and Man or Astro-man? hanging out in the studio together.
The only drawback to Pope Factory’s first release is that it’s only seven songs. Showcasing a plethora of wonderful influences and an ability to helm them into a sound all the band’s own, this EP is one of the best art-rock recordings of the year.