Strawberry Generation creates a glimmering world on their debut album, ‘Afloat’
The unanimous answer? Brockhampton.
If you’ve already listened to the sparkly, twee indie pop that Strawberry Generation is known for, that answer might come as a surprise. Musically, the two bands seem to come from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but in many ways, it makes a lot of sense why the members of Strawberry Generation share this unifying factor. Just like the “boy band” hip-hop collective, the members of Strawberry Generation come from a vast range of different backgrounds–Singapore, Belgium, and the United States. They study vastly different things at Brown University, where they met and came together. They name drop a vast array of musical inspirations ranging from A Tribe Called Quest, Alvvays, The Carpenters, and Carly Rae Jepsen.
So while it’s obvious that bandmates Luk Yean (vocals, producer, writer), Valerie Zhu (vocals, writer), Alejandro Subiotto Marqués, Dan Davis, and Max Naftol seem like the type of ragtag friend group this side of The Breakfast Club, it turns out that they’ve found another unifying factor in their natural ability to work together as a band. On the group’s incessantly delightful debut album Afloat, Strawberry Generation brings to life strawberry sweet indie pop that will make you reminisce about wide-eyed days of self-discovery.
Taking their name from 草莓族, the Taiwanese equivalent term for a “millennial snowflake,” Strawberry Generation makes delicate songs that bruise as easily as their band name suggests. And for a good reason. Both Yean and Zhu, who trade off writing credits on alternating songs, seem to be writing from personal experiences that stem from rosy life on a college campus (most explicitly on the saccharine “University”). Snapshots of daily life–ranging from whirlwind romances, fluttering feelings, and a rotating cast of characters (Hannah, Lauren, Charlotte)–are given a pastel makeover and graced with fuzzy guitars and sugar-sweet, disheveled production (Sobs’ Raphael Ong, Zhang Bo, and Luk Yean). The result is a warm sound that recalls the works of other indie pop darlings like Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian. Adding to the mix are Yean and Zhu’s complementary gauzy vocals, relaying stories fraught with little anxieties and moments of wavering self-esteem. On “Hannah,” Yean reminisces about a relationship once loved, filled with details like the Carpenters record that they shared, ditching class, and watching movies together. In the same breath, Yean admits his insecurities: “I know I’m uncool and I should be ashamed of myself / For saying what I should’ve said back then / I was so afraid of all my thoughts.” Similarly, Zhu experiences shaky parallel feelings on “East George,” singing, “You said that it didn’t even matter that we / Held hands in the parking lot that day / So tell me why / I felt the sky cave in?” Though these two voices draw from two completely different lived experiences, thematically Afloat comes together effortlessly. Yean and Zhu are our reliable, relatable narrators who are still coming to terms with themselves, making it easy to fall into their universal experiences and draw connections to our own.
But although there are lyrical moments of hesitance within the songs on Afloat, Strawberry Generation is self-affirmed as a cohesive unit. Small background details like a drifting melodica bring out magically sweeping moments in the instrumental “Intro,” crashing drums and a sax accent the intensity on “Afloat,” and deep synths underline the swaying love song “Tango.” Gorgeous solos adorn the rest of the album (“Afloat,” “I Know It’s Sad But It Must Be Done”), making Strawberry Generation a strangely harmonious unit with all of the factors going on for it. The sputtering “When I Was Here And You Were Sad” is perhaps one of the album’s most shining examples of the band’s pop-hook cohesiveness, creating loveliness that softly blooms over delicate feelings.
When Luk and Yean finally sing together on the charming album closer, “I Know It’s Sad But It Must Be Done,” one can’t help but imagine the band, on stage, God Help the Girl style, triumphantly playing together after navigating life’s tribulations. Together, they stand tall. Strawberry Generation, filled with young charismatic indie gusto, is a band that could very well be the indie pop Brockhampton–undoubtedly unbreakable in spirit and destined to go far.