onetwothreescream – Lit – EP Review
It takes a truly special artist to go from doing what they know inside & out as a solo act to opening up & expanding the ideas to new members or different styles of music altogether…or at least, that is, to make it happen successfully. WHEN it happens, it can be a really extraordinary thing…the results of the right collaboration can unlock an artist in ways they could never imagine, possibly even to end up making music that would have never been conceived otherwise. Back in the days long before there was this much grey in my beard…an alternative indie kid by the name of Ben met an electro dude named James – and for reasons unknown, they started the process of collaborating & writing together. Surprising themselves with the songs they created out of Ben’s indie style of songwriting and the subtle electro rhythms & grooves that James would make – the two of them would go on to make one of the most defining records of my generation…an album that could never have been made by either of them individually. It took the magic of the right collaboration to create it…check it out for yourself sometime – it’s from a little band called The Postal Service…the record’s called Give Up…it changes LIVES people. The songwriting is stunning, the sound is just as brilliant…they made few if any wrong moves on their debut record, and pretty much left us wanting more ever since. I digress before I’ve even started…
…or DO I?
Perhaps I brought it all up for a reason. Perhaps I feel just as strongly about the collaboration happening here. Perhaps these two musicians in onetwothreescream have found their way to exactly where they’re supposed to be. Perhaps this is that record that they couldn’t have written alone. The results on Lit speak for themselves – this debut is so loaded with impressive music, lyrics, and vocals that I can guarantee you a whole round of solid high-fives from your co-workers & friends if you’re among the first to start passing these songs around. Believe me – they’ll thank you for establishing the introduction to the music & being the gateway to hearing it; I’m thankful I got to hear this EP…any set of ears would be. After a healthy listening…I’m convinced they’d be fans of the Postal Service like I am, but I’m also remarkably impressed with just how hard this two-piece project has nailed this debut EP – it’s stunning.
At the very least, some Death Cab For Cutie. Nuff said.
I suppose I should mention that onetwothreescream’s new Lit EP isn’t out officially until July 13th – that’s not much of a wait from here, but long enough that these words in this review should already be taunting & tantalizing you, if not forcing you to run right over to your calendar to circle & save the date. Songs are written by the infamous Jana Pochop, who brought us the lead-single from this EP, “Money & Heart,” back in like…December last year; back then we didn’t know yet that she was going to morph herself further and merge into a supernova duo of all-star talent with Mark Addison to create onetwothreescream…six or so months later, here we are and the secret is now out of the cat. I mean the bag is out of the secret. Good lord – have I been up that long or do I just need more coffee? The secret is out and the cat is out of the bag as well. There. I said it. And you’ve been officially caught up.
As a duo, they tackle this record together, with Mark handling the production and playing the instruments along with Jana, who of course handles vocal-duties as well…and then we’ve got good ol’ Susan Gibson who will show up for the EP’s final tune/lead-single by the end of the record – but we’ll get to that eventually. Probably best that I start at the beginning now that I’m already like a page deep.
I’ll say this…the biggest question for me became whether or not Mark would be able to help make something great even greater. If you have a read of that past review on “Money & Heart” you’ll read about me ranting and raving about Jana’s performance & further potential – I was convinced she belongs on the front-lines of what’s fresh in music right now and leading the way to a better tomorrow for all our stereos. But I suppose that’s exactly what I’ve been getting at all along in this extended intro I’m writing here…I WAS actually surprised that I found songs I like just as much or more than “Money & Heart” on this record. I have ZERO reason to doubt Jana’s capabilities…and even if Mark was to somehow drag her down (which he doesn’t) – I’d still take Jana’s vocal abilities & songwriting talent at 50% of their strength before taking most people’s full 100%. It wasn’t about thinking that the potential would exist on Lit for something great – it was faith in a song that I still completely believe is perfectly designed in every possible way. In my world – these are rare moments in time; but apparently…now that I’ve been listening to Lit all week long…APPARENTLY these moments exist in Jana & Mark’s world like apples on a tree…when one idea is ripe they pluck it while another is already forming on the branch. And then you also have to like, imagine a massive tree with about a million branches to get the full idea.
From the synth & bass combo that started up and the innocent melody that began as Lit started-up with “You Lit Me” – I instantly knew I was on solid ground with this record. A lot of this tune reminds me a ton of what I love about The Submarines as well…there’s a similar playfulness-meets-professionalism that shows the willingness to reach for something new & creative, but fundamentally, it’s like you can’t possibly take the pro-instincts out of these two no matter how weird with it all they might try to get. “You Lit Me” is a fantastic start to this EP…like, you’ll probably be hooked just as quickly as I was on this quirky little groove they’ve got going on – but once you hear how much stronger this song continually gets, you’ll be equally impressed by how this first track keeps raising the stakes along the way. Are some people gonna find the keys/synth sounds a little on the old-school cheesy-side of sound? Sure. But just as many, if not more, will feel the same way I do – it’s charming, it’s sweet – and when you hear the lyrics that Jana has put with this song, you’ll absolutely love just how well this whole vibe comes together. Every time I hear just how incredible her lyrics are, I swear I fall in love with this woman all over again – her creativity & capability with words far surpasses anything I could ever write here, not even kidding. She finds the most incredibly sincere tones and quintessential indie-imagery that hits the heart full-on…you FEEL the words she sings and there’s no better complement that can be paid to a singer than that is, or better reward for any of us out there who happening to be listening.
Here’s where things get super-interesting for me. “Fault Lines” might very well be a contender for the ‘I think I might just like this song even more than “Money & Heart” if that is indeed a possible thing that can somehow happen’ award. It’s like…man…there’s so much I love about what I’m hearing on this song; it’s like the happier side of The Cure’s energy, with Death Cab style songwriting, and then like…a dash of the blissful B-side/melodic music made by The Smashing Pumpkins…preferably the stuff either sung by Darcy or James to suit this particular narrative I’m working on here. The delicate sincerity of the melody is prevalent at all times on “Fault Lines” – but so is the freshness in the energy and sound that your ears are looking for. That second half of the verses she’s written here…just spectacular! NO BIG DEAL – like I said, she can do this ALL DAY EVERY DAY apparently. The crisp beat, sweet acoustic guitars, and cleverly inserted string sounds punching the music for emphasis…it’s all incredible to listen to and the energy is absolutely exceptional in every way. Like a complete breath of fresh air, “Fault Lines” is as graceful as it is addictively catchy – LISTEN to the way Jana makes the magic happen even outside of the verse & chorus…cause she’s crushing it. Background vocals are just as on-point…the writing is outstanding and the composition of this cut keeps the sound flowing powerfully at all times – “Fault Lines” has an electricity in its vibe despite its acoustic approach…the energy is contagious here. Chorus wise, onetwothreescream brings this song right up to that next-level where it belongs.
Yet somehow this story just continues to get better. “They’ll make movies about this plot twist…”
Not only is that one of my favorite parts of any moment on this particular EP – what Jana’s singing on “18 Hours” might just be a lot more true than she knows. Suppose this moment in time IS just as big as it theoretically should be…suppose onetwothreescream catches on just like they deserve to – wouldn’t that be quite the plot twist in today’s world? So maybe they go on to dominate the world as the new folk-indie-electro duo and play stages all over the globe for the next thirty to forty years from here – you trying to tell me they wouldn’t make a movie about that one day? Makes you think…the possibility is there for these two. There are moments in “Fault Lines,” “18 Hours,” and “Do The Work” that each somehow managed to impress me perhaps even more than any single part of “Money & Heart” did. Loved the charming & sweet beginning to “18 Hours” as it opened up…and that first switch into the chorus really just hits the mark in ways that go beyond any kind of written description…it’s the indescribable part of music that truly makes it a magical realm unlike any other on earth…it’s moments in time like these where I hear a part written so strongly that it damn near brings a tear or two to my eyes from its stunning perfection. There are so many memorable moments throughout this debut EP from onetwothreescream that it’s impossible to count them all – but in my opinion, the chorus they’ve written into the music & lyrics of “18 Hours” might very well be the highlight of the entire record. It’s as gorgeous as gorgeous can get…and the inspiring nature of the lyrics, how Jana sings it, the smart pacing of the music…it really adds up to a captivating moment that’ll take your breath away…it’s beautiful.
Lit continues with “Do The Work,” which reminds me quite a bit of the vibe that started Death Cab’s Plans album…that remarkable building in a structure that shimmers & shines with blissful melody at every turn…the kind you KNOW will lead you into something special right away. Really well put together song from beginning to end – the backing vocals play a large role in strengthening the sound overall – but it’s definitely the combined energy of the two that really make this track move & groove. And dare I say, even ROCK a bit more, dear readers, dear friends! Love the sound of the guitars, love the sound of the amped-up keys/organs, the steady beat of the drums, the incredibly smart layering of the vocals & effects added to them…they never let up on this song, aside from a completely awesome breakdown where they tread into territory like The Submarines or Azure Ray for a moment or two, which is equally awesome – but you get the point, “Do The Work” is designed to flash some of that more aggressive side of their writing & sound. Another strong checkmark in the win column for onetwothreescream – ultimately it might be more of a ‘straightforward’ tune in some respects for what this band displays on the other tunes perhaps…but I’ve got no doubt that people would find this just as rewarding to listen to. I feel like Jana loosened-up a bit in singing this one too…just embracing that freedom of expression and really adding in unique notes & tones she can completely call her own…she sounds just as fantastic as she does identifiable – I think you get a bit more of her personality unrestrained on this cut and it really seems to add something to the spark of this song. By the end, onetwothreescream is blazing on all-fronts…wonderfully enhanced vocal sounds at the end, powerful backing vocals still firing, music and beat just thundering away to a finale-worthy ending – which instead sets up the next cut perfectly.
Whereas a song like “Do The Work” might resemble something closer to the newer-half of the Death Cab catalog in its style/sound, a song like “The First Cold War” actually ends up being really close to the vibes you’d find in their earlier material. This was an extremely solid move by owntwothreescream – “The First Cold War” shows them in an entirely different light than the rest of the set does and offers a glimpse into their immaculate further potential for the future. Jana has damn near out-written my high expectations of her songwriting here; I don’t want anyone to get me wrong – “The First Cold War” WILL have to fight harder for attention compared to the quick-to-the-chase hooks they so readily provide in the surrounding tunes – BUT…I have no doubt whatsoever that we’ll all come to the same conclusion: this song is amazing. And when you listen to how wild the subtle-electro gets during the progression of this tune, you’ll likely think the same thing I did, which is that they probably TRIED to make this weird – but the results came out brilliant. That’s the magic of pursuing an idea with full commitment…when you play every song and every moment like it truly matters – those moments add up to something special. Lyrically, I just can’t say enough about this song…I think Jana’s written an award-winning tune here. That first major transition in the melody-line from verse to chorus is the spine-tingling magic that every set of ears out there should be seeking out on the regular…it’s a breathtaking moment in time. And SOMEHOW…like…I’m honestly shaking my head in near disbelief at this point, but SOMEHOW – this song still has something even more incredible up its sleeve to reveal before the end. You’ll hear that electro-bizarreness creep in slightly at first, then fully consume the music, leading into one of the most powerful breakdowns, powerful lyrical-lines, and powerful moments that you’ll find anywhere on Lit.
“Money & Heart” – my beloved, spectacular single YOU! How happy I am to have you back in my speakers! Make sure to read the full review on “Money & Heart” here – but rest assured, this isn’t the kind of song that would hurt in adding to any playlist or record out there…it can only strengthen the experience. It’s a bulletproof song and it holds up just as solidly six-months post hearing it for the first time just as readily as the major impact it makes on that initial listening…I don’t see an expiry date on a song of this incredible caliber. Incidentally, I’ve never answered her questions in the song before…which of course, is a resounding ‘NO’ to almost all of them lol…there’s ‘no system to this art’ and there’s likely not any ‘money where there’s heart’ either…though I’d imagine we could all hope that there might be somehow. But I don’t think that’s even been important to Jana…and if she’s pulled Mark into this music of hers, then I’d imagine he’s feeling the same way…I think people that make music that comes out as strongly as it does on Lit is purely the result of doing what you love because you love it & nothing more. In fact, if you listen to the words that Jana’s written into “Do The Work,” she’ll tell you as much herself.
All that being said – in my opinion, these two should be sitting atop a mountain of GOLD and sneaker endorsements…or breakfast waffles…whatever riches that come along with being verifiable rockstars, you get the idea. Something beyond-words-special is happening over there in Austin, Texas and in onetwothreescream…this EP surpassed every massive expectation I had for it. I’ll fully admit, when I saw that “Money & Heart” was going to be on this record, I thought for sure there’d be almost no way to top it…and track after track, these two incredible artists combined their talents to create spectacular, special, memorable, sweet, endearing and amazing music that continually connected. The more I listened, the more I loved it…the more I felt it confirmed that onetwothreescream belongs not just on my playlist this summer, but YOURS as well…the entire vibe these two are creating is incredibly accessible to all and I truly can’t imagine a single set of ears out there regretting putting this EP on. Considering it’s a debut…you can only assume that somehow things are going to get even BETTER from here…and again, that just leaves me shaking my head and wondering…how could that possibly be?
Purely stunning. Mark and Jana should be incredibly excited about where they can take this next. I know that I am…and I know that you will be too.
Find out more about onetwothreescream and watch the time tick down on their official website with a bowl of popcorn and massive anticipation until the Lit EP official drops worldwide online July 13th at: https://onetwothreescream.com
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