Popstrangers are Joel Flyger, Adam Page and David Larson, three native New Zealanders who make “pop” music that’s hard-driving, punk-influenced and sonically inimitable. After releasing several singles on fabled New Zealand label Flying Nun, the band arrives with their debut album Antipodes. Recorded in the basement of a 1930′s dancehall, Popstrangers’ first full-length features dissonant, claustrophobic melodies, anchored by the languid affectations of Flyger’s vocals, that bring a vintage feel to their decidedly contemporary garage rock. Channeling early Radiohead and kiwi indie bands of yore like the Gordons, 3Ds and the Chills, Antipodes further develops the band’s nuanced, distorted “pop” created and cultivated from years spent honing their craft live.
Antipodes begins with a wavering chord from a classic rock organ in “Jane,” over which the band layers gently oscillating bass, a razor-sharp guitar riff and the faintest hint of a tambourine, until the song rotates on its axis with the introduction of Flyger’s shadowy vocals enveloped in noise. Popstrangers revel in this conflict, playing with dynamics and tempo to whip their droning melodies and tightly wound riffs into utter frenzy. Antipodes‘ storm breaks for “Heaven,” a song that contrasts Flyger’s moody lyrics about imprisonment and escape with a serotonin hit of snappy guitars and infectious hooks. Drawing the album to a close is seven minutes of slow-burner “Occasions,” anchored by a murky bassline that eases the album to its end. Antipodes operates within a claustrophobic world of depression, captivity and dark matters of the heart, but Popstrangers anchor their debut LP’s hazy gloom with earnest anticipation for contentment.