I read that this was an attempt by Apples in Stereo to sound more like they do on stage, so it’s rawer than normal. I’ve heard one of their earlier albums – Tone Soul Evolution – but I don’t remember it. But reading my review that sounds like it might be true. But it’s kind of hilarious to look at an attempt with this many instruments on it as “raw”. I guess everything is relative.
Schneider writes catchy songs. That’s his thing and it’s why he’s had such a successful career. (I honestly don’t remember Sidney’s songs distinctly enough to comment if they are markedly better or worse than Schneider’s.) But he does one thing, and that is write power pop songs. If you like power pop, I presume that these songs sound pretty good to you. For me, I’ve heard a lot of pop songs in my life and I’m not sure these ones stand out enough for me to remember them. (I’m sure they don’t, actually. I don’t really remember them when I’m done listening.)
The arrangements are the thing here: either they are a fresh departure from the more polished earlier sound or this whole thing is less impressive. (There is apparently also a shift to more of an R&B sound, though I don’t really detect that.) But what I continue to hear is Big Star worship in the melodies, dressed up in arrangement ideas from psychedelic pop, only a little more stripped down, a little closer to actual sound of Big Star (though hardly anything that sparse, as there are tons of instruments on these songs). As with the earlier album I’ve heard, there is a distinct lack of weirdness that I usually associate with indie pop and that I thought was characteristic of Elephant 6 before I listened to Apples in Stereo. There are moments of quirk and weirdness, but they are like decoration on what are otherwise very straightforward power pop songs. I can imagine this sounding interesting to people who’ve never listened to psychedelic music, for example. But for anyone who has listened to psychedelia, or anything weirder, it sounds more like an homage to another time.
I don’t generally like power pop and I just don’t get this band. They’re like so many bands out there where it feels like the success is based in part on their audience’s relative unfamiliarity with their influences. (Or, perhaps it’s the opposite: perhaps they rely on their audience’s over-familiarity with, and love of, their influences.)
Not for me.