Review by Chris Matei
Montrealers Pin Up hearken back to a certain sound, but not that of of the retro Betty Grable archetype conjured by their name: rather, they trade in the slick power chords and punchy drums of late 90s and early-aughts rock. Their self-titled EP, which sees release after several years of writing, tinkering and production, positively gleams with studio polish: thick waves of multi-stacked guitars in the Foo Fighters style, arena-ready drums that pump with compressed energy, and vocals with just the right balance of shimmer and edge. Dynamics are strictly of the loud-and-louder variety pretty much throughout. This debut EP is certainly crafted well enough to make the statement that Pin Up are going into the fray ready to play with the big boys.
The songs on the Pin Up EP largely commit to hard-charging power pop, built to grab in the verses and explode to full throttle in the choruses – a feat largely accomplished by the strong-willed vocals of lead singer Sam Martell. Though her lyrics are forcefully delivered, Martell trades the wicked bite of a Courtney Love or Shirley Manson for a definitely pop-honed clarity, one that excels in the rushing moments of crescendo that these songs often call for. “Letter After Letter” and the fuzzier, darker-toned “Let Up” are solid examples of the band’s energetic style, blending poppy melodic hooks and soaring vocals with driving rock arrangements.
Pin Up gets points for being a debut offering that makes what some might consider the meat and potatoes sounds of alternative rock feel charismatic and vital, as well as being quite solidly produced. It does suffer a bit from sameyness: only on the closing track, “Faded,” do Pin Up turn down the gain and opt for a ballad instead of attempting a barn-burner, and the choice feels like either a concession or a bid for crossover appeal. Such is the challenge with an EP: in the narrow span of a few tracks, a band must choose either to stick to their guns or show off their range. Pin Up do their best work here when they take the former route.
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)
Top Tracks: “Letter After Letter,” “Let Up”