BUMPER offers a quick escape from reality on ‘pop songs 2020 EP’
Sometimes (or a lot of the time, if you’re an INFP like me), retreating to your imagination is a delightful act of release. To be able to escape the building responsibilities and pressures set in reality by indulging in moments of idealized memories, worlds, and possibilities is liberating. pop songs 2020, the surprise EP from Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner and Crying’s Ryan Galloway (collectively known as BUMPER), caters to that daydreamer in you.
Although BUMPER was a way for two artists from completely different bands to step away from their main musical projects and tinker with new sounds, this isn’t the first time the two musicians joined forces. Zauner and Galloway first worked together for Japanese Breakfast’s upcoming LP3, but things went so well that they decided to team up and create something more. But starting a new group during such an uncertain time presented its own challenges. Due to the restrictions of COVID-19, Zauner and Galloway communicated primarily through email exchanges, even though they both lived only blocks away from each other in Brooklyn. Surprisingly, this didn’t prove to be a problem. BUMPER gave the two a creative freedom that was desperately needed. Zauner was concurrently sitting on the releases of LP3, the Sable video game soundtrack, and her memoir Crying in H Mart, while Galloway was experimenting with different music styles. With BUMPER, the two were able to try new things outside of the realms of their established musical acts and create “bombastic pop music.”
That freedom greets listeners with bright instrumentals and a cheery synth riff. The combination of Japanese Breakfast’s airy dream pop and Crying’s more outgoing power pop creates bright and sparkly production throughout the EP, manifesting a sonic landscape not unlike that of the Steven Universe soundtrack (which is an easy comparison given the album artwork and corresponding animation in mind). It’s also hard to shake off the 80s pop influences–particularly in “Black Light” where motifs of neon pinks, reds and blues color a sensual mood, and “Red Brick” where the chorus conjures up a slight resemblance to Madonna’s “Holiday.”
The lyrical composition has a similarly light-hearted feel. There isn’t much depth here; it’s pretty straightforward. In fact, much of the four songs are chorus heavy and pack the most punch, like all great pop songs do. Even then, they don’t run so deep as Zauner’s airy vocals ask you to spend more time with a love interest (“Can’t you see / I wanna be wherever you are”), fantasize about a mysterious neighbor (“I saw you, I saw you / Flashing pink and red”), and encourage listeners to live in the moment (“Fall back—let it happen, let it hit you / And if—you miss it all go get it back!”)
The last track, simply named “Ballad 0”, closes out pop songs 2020 with, well, a ballad. It’s a more moody song that reflects on past mistakes and hard habits to break. The remaining 30 seconds wraps up the 12 minute journey with a sweet lo-fi drum loop and soft synth progression that fades into the distance, inviting listeners a chance to drift away with it.
Considering the context of BUMPER’s formation (and the pandemic of course), pop songs 2020 is a short and sweet EP. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Its brevity is a refreshing change of pace amidst the long-drawn quarantine, and Zauner’s charismatic vocals paired with Galloway’s bombastic musical stylings send a rush of energy to last us another month (or at least 12 minutes) indoors.