Reviewed by Jack Derricourt
TV Sets are a hard bunch to deconstruct. The language they use is set deeply in the new world of the internet, yet the signs that pop up in their music are far-reaching, cruising back into the past. Maybe the past is the new future, in this world of streaming parties and sharefests. Toronto bedroom pop needs some insight into the madness of our temporally level playing field; TV Sets are happy to deliver, with this year’s GEN POP EP.
Bedroom they declare themselves to be, and bedroom they are. The recordings on GEN POP qualify themselves with separation from the listener: the abstraction of intimate quality, rather than perfected, produced closeness. Vocals are back in the mix; the amount of natural, churchy echo on the voice certainly illustrates a picturesque hall filled with electrical equipment and creativity. Guitar is the star on the record, with synth line swagger pulling a close second.
In four tracks, it seems there would be so little one could achieve, but TV Sets tantalize with distinct flavours of sound and intention.
“Tangles” is a wonderful mess, full of reverse delay squawking and squeaking.
The obvious single, “So Fortunate” is ready for your Valentines mix. The Baggy-era snare beat broadcasts fun, with help from the intoxicating lead line.
With erudite self-proclamation, “Cartoons” fixes listeners up with a dose of eighties TV theme song. Well, at least, that 80s cop show that only the kids into post-punk watched. Whatever. Look out for that killer guitar lead lick in the middle eight. Scream-worthy note bending that puts a lot of Toronto pop acts to shame.
Closer “Pixel Gut” is a compartmentalized little pop number. The rhythms click and writhe with dexterity as elongated duo vocal lines parade through the shifting number. I don’t know what to make of the title. It makes me uncomfortable. Can you eat pixels?
This music, by Toronto musicians who insist that the future is part of the past, is important pop music. TV Sets know how to throw guitar, drum machines, synthesizers, and bass lines together to make something original and all their own. The only thing I didn’t like about the album was how little music there actually was: there’s a slow burner or another “Tangles” missing, and I am left wanting more than I have in a long time. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for the next release, post-GEN POP.
Top Track: “Cartoons”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)