Bad Pop (Independent)
Bad Pop, the fourth full-length from the Edmonton transplants in Hot Panda, effectively mixes bubblegum sweetness with jittery art-rock rhythms and a splash of textured psychedelia. In order to appreciate this mix of sounds, however, you’ll first need to get through the head-scratching opening cut, “Other Spooky Is”. This six-minute fever dream begins with atonal guitar strums and tuneless, hiccupy vocal gasps before culminating in a crescendo of heavy-metal aggression and ghoulish robo chants.
Thankfully, things improve significantly when Hot Panda channels its oddball influences into more conventional songs. “Linda Ronstadt” fleshes out its airy call-and-response choruses with swoops of cello and violin, while the lush choral harmonies of “Golden Arch” provide the palatable counterpoint to lyrics that describe revulsion toward fast food. Best of all is “When I Was Cruel”, the shimmering guitar licks of which are pure British psych pop.
All of these songs are delivered with a sense of unpredictable quirkiness. Ultimately, however, it’s the melodic hooks that leave the greatest impression. If these Pandas really think that they make “bad pop”, they ought to give themselves a little more credit.