In 1986, things weren't great for Josie Cotton's career. She'd made a bit of a splash with the single "Johnny, Are You Queer?" and 1982's album Convertible Music, a fun collection of girl group-inspired power pop, but the follow-up, 1984's From the Hip, sank without a trace and she was dropped by her label. She and long-time producer Larson Paine weren't ready to give up, though, and they started recording new tracks as demos and/or a third album for a new label. The sessions attracted musicians like Hunt Sales, Billy Bremner of Rockpile, and Brian Setzer; however, before she could finish the record, Cotton briefly walked away from the music industry and the tapes were left to gather dust.
Fast-forward a few decades, and thanks to a request from a music publisher who was looking for unreleased tracks to send to Stranger Things for possible inclusion in their third season, Cotton hunted down the tapes and rescued them from obscurity. After a little bit of baking and digital magic, Everything Is Oh Yeah was finally released in 2019, and fans of Cotton and the weirdness of the '80s are in for a treat. It's a wonderful time capsule of the era that mashes up genres, delivers surprises, and positions Cotton as a weirder version of Cyndi Lauper with a voice big and versatile enough to match. The songs are weird and very hooky, bopping from space age rockabilly that sounds like Sigue Sigue Sputnik fronted by Wanda Jackson ("Money") to Bangles-y jangle pop ("Boulevard"), epic '80s ballads ("Far Away from the Crowd"), strutting Brill Building pop ("Hand Over Your Heart"), and goofy electro-pop covers (the Beatles' "The Night Before" and Cat Stevens' "Here Comes My Baby"), with lots of the kind of snappy power pop Cotton broke in with (the title track, "If You Really Want Me To"). The unfinished nature of the songs means that some of them are a little sparse, some of them are overloaded with gimmicky '80s sounds, and everything is just a little tiny and weird sounding. While it's possible that a bigger production and more studio polish could have led to some hits -- there are certainly plenty of songs just as hooky and fun as anything on the radio at the time -- it's more likely that if it had been released in 1986, it would still be a lost treasure in 2019. And it truly is a rough gem of an album. Cotton's voice is a thing of wonder that's alternately heartbreakingly sincere and gum-snappingly playful, the songs are endlessly frothy and fun, and the overall joyous spirit can't be ruined by less than perfect production. It's too bad the album was buried for so long, but the fact that it came out at all is well worth celebrating.