Estrogen Highs likes to switch back and forth between straight-ahead punk and power-pop. This would be a cool idea if Estrogen Highs were any good at playing power-pop. They aren't.
Estrogen Highs spends their second album, Irrelevant Future, straddling the line between punk and pop. Actually they don't really straddle the line so much as jump back and forth across it, repeatedly. Opener "Tell it to Them" is a 2-minute blast of punk energy, as frontman/guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Stefan Christensen shout-sings his way through the track while the band pounds away on simple chords. But second song "Alchemy Contest" is much more laid-back, all lazily strummed guitars and happy-sounding choruses.
The album continues in this vein for most of its running time. But it quickly becomes apparent that Christensen mostly doesn't have the chops to pull off effective power-pop. His strained, barely-in-tune vocals work fine for straight-ahead punk music, but he has a hard time making an impression on the poppier songs. Even worse, he doesn't seem to have much of an ear for hooks, leaving his power-pop songs sounding mostly like backing tracks with guitar chords and a rhythm section in search of a central melody.
It's only near the end of the album that the band meshes their two styles with any success. The hard-hitting but not quite full-on punk of "Seventh Sunday of the Ordinary Times" features a strong but simple riff and a chorus that takes full advantage of Christensen's shouting voice. "I Saw Light", on the other hand, sounds like it's supposed to feature voices in unison singing the chorus, but Christensen and bassist Wes Nelson sing just slightly out of tune with each other for the entire length of the song, and neither can hold a steady pitch. Album closer "I Wanna Be Tall" finally, finally finds a catchy hook, and Christensen sings in a lower, more comfortable register, and it's the one power-pop song on the album that actually works. It's not really enough to make up for all the other failed power-pop tracks on Irrelevant Future, though.