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The Secret Handshake

Summer of '98

(Triple Crown; US: 6 Mar 2007; UK: Available as import)

Pop music has the weirdest microcosms. From indie children’s music to electro-emo, there’s no end to the way pop music can mix-and-match. When it comes to electro-emo, however, you’re looking right at The Secret Handshake (aka Luis Dubuc), taking even less of a full-band approach than Hellogoodbye did when they turned big. The Summer of ‘98 is high on melodrama, but also huge on melody. The ballad “Don’t Call” runs familiar lyrical ground, but the hook sounds like Elton John followed his Rocket Man into the 21st century, reappearing with shiny synths and a case of the MySpace blues. The vaguely autobiographical title track hints at wanting to grow up but knowing that the narrator isn’t exactly ready yet. A simple sentiment that sounds even better over a fantastic electro-pop hook. The drum-happy “Too Young” gets two excellent remix treatments on the EP: once by Dillinger Escape Plan (who re-envisions it as a Postal Service B-side) and again by Toxic Avengers (who keep throwing keyboards at it until it feels like it’s going to explode—a good feeling). The P.O.S and Spank Rock remixes of the “Summer of ‘98” are merely passable, but they’re only a footnote to the Handshake’s potential as a whole. In preparation for his full-length, the Hellogoodbye comparisons will be inevitable, but if Dubuc can rise above and beyond, then we might just have the new face of electro-emo right here: a microcosm that’s amazingly fun.

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Evan Sawdey started contributing to PopMatters in late 2005, and has also had his work featured in publications such as SLUG Magazine, The Metro (U.K.), Soundvenue Magazine (Denmark), the Daily Dot, and many more. Evan has been a guest on HuffPost Live, RevotTV's "Revolt Live!", and WNYC's Soundcheck (an NPR affiliate), was the Executive Producer for the Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle album, and wrote the liner notes for the 2011 re-release of Andre Cymone's hit 1985 album A.C. (Big Break Records), the 2012 re-release of 'Til Tuesday's 1985 debut Voices Carry (Hot Shot Records), and many others. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow him @SawdEye should you be so inclined.


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Electro-pop follows excellent Hellogoodbye-styled EP with a full-length that, though good, does not fully deliver on his promising talent.
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