Thursday, May 24, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Life after Taylor Swift's '1989': Carly Rae Jepsen, Chvrches carve out new pop sounds

Welcome to 1990.

Or, if you prefer: Welcome to one year after Taylor Swift's 1989.

In the 12 months since Swift dropped that epic, soaring, smash-after-smash album, the pop universe has bent entirely around her gravitational pull. We've seen this play out on her 1989 Tour, which hits Tampa on Halloween night. Swift can seemingly conjure any singer at will to pop up on stage and sing alongside her, building a friendship bank that looks a lot like Billboard's Hot 100.

1989 isn't the first pop album to achieve such ubiquity; nor, frankly, is it the best. But its staggering success during a tough era in the music industry ensured we'd be hearing a lot more pop songs marked by sweeping synthesizers, echoing vocals, gigantic hooks and impeccable, '80s-inspired production. Think Rachel Platten's Fight Song, Hailee Steinfeld's Love Myself or Halsey's New Americana.

Are these artists copycats? Not necessarily. Maybe Swift and her producers just saw where pop was headed, and the album they constructed is a dazzlingly bright reflection of our times. Still, any artist who dares visit the same sonic territory will inevitably see his or her work compared, rightly or wrongly, to 1989.

For Carly Rae Jepsen and Chvrches, those comparisons aren't such a bad thing. We may be living in Taylor Swift's world, but they've found ways to make it their own.

• • •

At some point this summer, the Internet decided Carly Rae Jepsen was the millennial answer to Paul McCartney. The hype over her new album Emotion was so over-the-top effusive ("We are not worthy of this Carly Rae Jepsen album," raved one typically breathless tweet) that it began to feel less like Jepsen's followup to smash single Call Me Maybe, and more like a lost Beatles album.

No album can live up to that kind of hype, but Emotion sure gives it a shot. Like Jepsen herself, it is charming, intelligent and awfully hard to dislike, literally from start to finish.

Emotion opens with the breakaway sugar rush of Run Away With Me and closes with the breezy, chimey funk of When I Needed You, and those happen to be my two favorite tracks on the album. When's the last time an artist stuck both the takeoff and the landing so emphatically? That, I think, goes a long way toward explaining why Emotion feels so cohesive, so winning across the board.

Between those pitch-perfect bookends, Jepsen has created an immaculate pastiche of '80s and '90s radio pop and '10s indie pop, equal parts Paula Abdul and Passion Pit, Amy Grant and Walk the Moon. There's the glistening soft focus of All That, the chic Chic disco of Boy Problems and Let's Get Lost. And in keeping with pop tradition, every song is about the push and pull of love and yearning, with Jepsen hoping, praying, begging that you like her as much as she likes you. (And, as she warbles on I Really Like You, she really, really, really, really, really, really likes you.)

The whole '80s vibe has been done to death in pop music — it's a tag oft applied to 1989 — but it feels fresh coming from Jepsen and her collaborators, including Swift's 1989 producer Shellback, but also 21st century tastemakers like Sia, Ariel Rechtshaid, Dev Hynes and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij. It shows on Gimmie Love, LA Hallucinations and Warm Blood, tracks whose beating hearts are just enough askew to be memorable.

Jepsen may not be a Beatle, but if 1989 is millennial pop's Sgt. Pepper's, Emotion might be its Pet Sounds, a bracingly cohesive creative leap forward that many fans will prefer for years to come.

• • •

Two years ago, few would compare Chvrches to Taylor Swift. The Scottish electro-pop trio whirred, blipped and warbled their way to major indie-rock festival success and a niche hit in The Mother We Share, all while Swift still had a toe in the stream of country music.

Like Swift, Chvrches (pronounced "churches") were poised to go full pop with their sophomore album, Every Open Eye. And their new songs are more intense, more expansive, more electric. They are definitely thinking bigger.

But even as they tinker with broader pop sounds, they haven't abandoned the propulsive synthesizers that serve as their lifeblood and foundation. To stick with the '80s analogies: If 1989 and Emotion are homages to Madonna and Paula Abdul, Every Open Eye is more about the tight, glittery Euro-pop of Erasure or Depeche Mode.

Every Open Eye explodes with a pounding bass line and trickling squiggles as Lauren Mayberry opens her heart in anthemic empowerment on Never Ending Circles: "Here's to taking what you came for, and here's to running through the pain," she sings. "I'll go my way if I'm going at all."

Mayberry's distinctive chirp meshes well with Chvrches' signature synths. There's a tightness, a tension, to the combination that pays off on Clearest Blue, which swells for two minutes before a cathartic drop into a kaleidoscopic frenzy. Many songs — Empty Threat, Keep You on My Side, Make Them Gold, Bury It — don't bother waiting that long; Mayberry steers them into an overcaffeinated tizzy from the get-go.

Synth-and-sample man Martin Doherty takes over lead vocals on the glassy disco groove High Enough to Carry You Over and Follow You, a simmering bonus cut from Every Open Eye's special edition. On both cuts, Chvrches sound like a band reinvented, not just vocally but musically. You can hear that growth on some Mayberry-led tracks, too, particularly the airy, drum-free coda Afterglow and the bonus cut Bow Down, a blast of New Wave energy that may be the purest pop song they've ever done. (Seriously, shell out for that special edition. It's well worth the extra $2.)

Chvrches, coincidentally, plays Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on Oct. 31, the same night Swift plays Tampa. Give Every Open Eye a listen, and you might have a tough decision to make.

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

   
Comments
Watch Kenny Chesney’s new ‘Get Along’ video, filmed entirely at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

Watch Kenny Chesney’s new ‘Get Along’ video, filmed entirely at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

Were you at Kenny Chesney's concert on April 21 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa? Then there's a decent chance you might be in his new video.The country superstar dropped the official video for his new single Get Along on Thursday, and it was appare...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sunset Music Festival, more outdoor concerts could be soaked by weekend rain

Sunset Music Festival, more outdoor concerts could be soaked by weekend rain

  Your Memorial Day weekend weather forecast is not looking good, with a big low pressure system, Invest 90L, hovering out in the Gulf of Mexico and threatening to dump several inches of water on Saturday. For music fans, it couldn't be coming at a...
Updated: 8 hours ago
An all-ages playlist of the summer songs of 2018? It can be done

An all-ages playlist of the summer songs of 2018? It can be done

Recently I was asked to create a playlist for a summer beach party. An opportunity to procrastinate and mess around on Spotify for a few hours? Yeah, totally, when can I start?I like playlists that are diverse, not just in terms of genre (pop, hip-ho...
Published: 05/24/18
Tampa Bay Margarita Festival schedule, set times: When to see the Wallflowers, Everclear and more

Tampa Bay Margarita Festival schedule, set times: When to see the Wallflowers, Everclear and more

It's anyone's guess as to whether this weekend's ugly rains will hold off long enough for the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival to crack open some 10,000 bottles of tequila in Curtis Hixon Park.But if it does, you want to know when you can see your favori...
Published: 05/23/18
97X Barbecue schedule, set times: When to see Awolnation, Dirty Heads, more in St. Petersburg

97X Barbecue schedule, set times: When to see Awolnation, Dirty Heads, more in St. Petersburg

The 97X Barbecue Music and Arts Festival — formerly the 97X BBQ, formerly the 97X Barbecue, formerly … well, who can keep track of it all? — returns on Saturday to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, with a lineup that includes Awolnation...
Published: 05/23/18
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Published: 05/23/18
Suwannee Hulaween lineup: Odesza, Jamiroquai, Janelle Monae and more

Suwannee Hulaween lineup: Odesza, Jamiroquai, Janelle Monae and more

For the second straight year, one of the most eclectic music festivals in Florida will be taking place in Live Oak.Suwannee Hulaween just announced the lineup for its 2018 edition, coming Oct. 26-28 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, and it featur...
Published: 05/23/18
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last year’s Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampa’s largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Published: 05/23/18
Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Championship Tour’ brings good sportsmanship, great rhymes to Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Championship Tour’ brings good sportsmanship, great rhymes to Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

Do they give Pulitzer Prizes for concerts featuring golf cart rides, cartoon sports-card backdrops and a slam-dunking doggie mascot?If so, Kendrick Lamar might want to start clearing shelf space for plaque No. 2.Weeks after the rapturous adulation th...
Published: 05/23/18
Want to drink free whiskey with country star John Rich in Tampa on Friday?

Want to drink free whiskey with country star John Rich in Tampa on Friday?

Here's an offbeat way to start your Memorial Day weekend right.Country star John Rich, half of the colorful, multiplatinum country duo Big and Rich, is coming to town for a couple of promotional appearances on Friday, including a tasting of his new w...
Published: 05/23/18