The Skies are Your Hunting Ground
Out of Line

Electropop, like all derivations of the almighty pop beast, depends on the hook, and woe to the artist that forgets that. Amazing production, great vocals and clever arrangement are all well and good, but unless the listener can hum it, preferably from memory, none of it matters a lick. When last I wrote about Sweden’s auto-auto I found that despite their smart take on the form, that sticky, intangible quality of great pop music was spread too thin across its length.

Whether it’s a function of its brevity or the continued evolution of the trio as craftsmen, the same can’t be said for the new EP The Skies Are Your Hunting Ground, which packs plenty of singalong moments into its 5 track, 21 minute run time. The stuff I like about the group, namely their slightly off-kilter arrangements are still present, but applied to songs that feel worthy of the attention paid to them in studio. “Weekender” makes the case right from the jump, its vocal and synth melody established in an open bit of piano that pops up throughout the song, sometimes as the main melodic elements, sometimes as counterpoint but never far from the being the focus.

Weirdly more than any of their contemporaries within Our Thing, the band that leaps to mind when listening is Canadian indie-electro combo Junior Boys. It’s something in the synthesized slap-bass and falsetto that make up the chorus of the title track, or the peppy minor-key progression on “Opportunities Lost” that summons comparison, and it’s a good look for them. In focusing less on being clever and more on being confessional they’re channeling one of the other great secrets of pop music: the universal appeal of melancholy.

Which isn’t to say that this is entirely some new auto-auto either. I think “The Wish” feels like it could have been a highlight on any of their previous albums, especially when the characteristically weird breathy synth sounds pop up to break up an ascending piano figure. By the same token the guitar, electric bass and relatively straight composition make closer “Yellow Streak” the closest thing to a down-the-pipe rock ballad they’ve ever released. For a free-to-download EP The Skies Are Your Hunting Ground makes for a remarkably cohesive but varied listening experience, and one I’m happy to recommend. If they can deliver an LP that keeps pace with the development and good old fashioned songcraft shown here, they’ll have realized all the potential they’ve hinted at up ’til this point. Good stuff.

Buy it.