Popstrangers

Antipodes

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On Antipodes, New Zealand's Popstrangers deliver a more muscular and nuanced version of the mix of melody, noise, and rock that they've brandished since their early singles on their homeland's venerated Flying Nun label. While there are still hints of that imprint's brashly jangly sound, Popstrangers owe more to the Pixies' loud-quiet-loud dynamics, Nirvana's outbursts, and the intricately tangled guitars of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Sonic Youth. Even these influences are more echoes than obvious signposts, and like their Carpark brethren Cloud Nothings, Popstrangers carve out their own territory within this sonic realm. However, Popstrangers' love triangle with noise and melody feels more balanced, and more effortless: when the fuzzed-out minor-key riffing on "Jane" gives way to Joel Flyger's singsong vocals, it's more attention-getting and satisfying than a more predictable hook might be. Likewise, the addictive tension between deceptively simple melodies and jagged dynamics on "Witches Hand" and "Heaven" shows that Popstrangers aren't as unfamiliar with how to make catchy songs as their name suggests. At times, the band kicks up nearly as much dust as it did on 2010's Happy Accidents EP, but the onslaughts are tempered by a moodier vibe on tracks like "What Else Could They Do" and "In Some Ways," where the volume only makes Flyger's ruminations even more brooding. While it's hard to fathom that a band this dedicated to noise could also be subtle, Popstrangers pull off that feat time and again, particularly on "Cat's Eyes" and "404." Darker and more mature than any of the band's previous music, Antipodes sacrifices some of the quirky charm of Popstrangers' earliest work and Happy Accidents' firepower for a strong debut album.

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