Brooklyn's Pop. 1280 have always been a misanthropic bunch, and making a god-awful racket has been their form of self-care since they released their first single in 2010. While they haven't gotten any happier with time, they have learned how to create a more refined sort of clamor, and 2019's Way Station sounds abrasive and well-crafted at the same time, not the easiest thing to pull off. Chris Bug's lead vocals are a gritty snarl that communicate utter contempt no matter what failing of our culture has crossed his mind, and Ivan Lip's guitar is suitably sharp, jagged, and noisy throughout, generating an ugly clarion call that matches Bug's vocals perfectly. But with the addition of Allegra Sauvage on keyboards and cello, Pop. 1280 has added a lot more electronics into the mix, and the unrelenting pulse and thick sonic clouds in the opening track "Boom Operator" make them sound like the lost Wax Trax! act of the '80s. ("Doves" isn't quite so aggressive, but its blend of electronic and organic textures puts it in the same ballpark.) The creepy-crawly pace and doomstruck tone of "Monument" and "Empathetics" make them sound less like post-punk and more like goth (if there was ever music that was perfectly suited for wearing a lot of black clothing, this is it). Even if "The Deserter" is more a fragment than a song, it's refreshing to hear them create something evocative and ominous at a far lower volume than usual. As Pop. 1280 refine their approach, they seem to be retreating into the past rather than confronting the present, but they also seem to feel comfortable there, and Way Station manages to boost their level of craft without compromising their bilious nature.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming