ABBA and Mick Jagger’s love child.
“Awe” is an apt title for Pluto Jonze’s 2021 album, which I only picked up recently. It has a bombastic pop sheen to the music that feels maximalist as well as ethereal at the same time. Mixing together psyche-rock elements with poppier tones, Pluto Jonze manages to keep a foot firmly in both camps and keeps everyone happy.
For instance, “Been Dreaming” has a spatial explosion for its finale that has cascading pianos, vibrant synths bleeping like sheep entourages and floating vocals that fly around the air. It starts out with some electro-rock vibes but descends into something more visceral and cinematic. The flipside is the spring-in-the-step of “Rumschpringe”. This uptempo slice of Brit-Pop is insanely catchy and the kind of things you’d hear from Supergrass or a happy Stereophonics. “Moonmaking” takes the smooth piano grooves to something Golpfrapp might tackle in collaboration with SOHN. As you can see from my references, there’s an eclectic mix of sounds, feels and ideas here but they all feel connected. Pluto Jonze has the ability to switch from something heavily synth or guitar-based into something acoustic and raw in a few production tweaks and it works perfectly for breakdowns, middle eights and codas.
As the album progresses, I felt Pluto Jonze was closer to Scandinavian pop – but the pop melodies were wearing alternative clothes. Tracks like “Dot” or “New Morning High” could be reworked for ABBA or Susanne sundfør easily. Elsewhere I could see “Blue China” being from the Marc Bolan era of rock. Other tracks are more rock focused such as a bombastic title track but then we get tight pop string embellishments that strike drama into the song. That lets simple four-chord patterns elevate way above their stature. Each song is fun and inviting and it’s one of those albums you’ll find sneaking its way onto repeat. It’s also largely uplifting too – this is about an album that feels in love with life and it shows.
Whilst there are several moments of highly cinematic pop-rock, the back end of the album veers away from the pop sheen a little towards moodier pieces. “Walk Off The Edge” is a bluesy haze of piano, shower synths and deep grooves. “Kelsey in Corduroy” is all about the sexy Rolling Stones-esque guitar riffs and retro organs. It oozes sass. “I’ll Try Anything” is a big rock ballad about moving on from a relationship and it is a bittersweet symphonic piece.
Fundamentally, Pluto Jonze’s “Awe” is banger after banger. It might sound like ABBA doing alternative, then Rolling Stones or Supergrass delving into pop sensibilities but that crosshair is full of hit after hit. Fun, uplifting, visceral and full of interesting twists and turns – this is exactly how good psyche-pop sounds like. Also, whilst I’d never want to see a piano in flames for real – this live performance playing a burning piano is frankly – nuts.
Recommended track: Awe
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