Portland’s Leading Psychics was formed by David Frederickson (founder of Buzzyband favorite, The Prids) and Christian Hurd as a way to let loose and have fun away from their usual punk roots. Their latest release is entitled What About Lonely?. It’s their way of figuring out what guitar-based pop can be in the current mainstream. The record takes a lot of influences from the 80’s and 90’s. With a healthy dose of nostalgia, and free from the restraints of their main projects. Frederickson and Hurd took the sounds of post-punk, new wave, surf and power pop to form their own concoction. Backed by experience and a rich knowledge of crafting and arranging sounds, What About Lonely? feels like something out of a parallel universe, where guitar-based rock still reigns supreme and has evolved into this current form — full of breezy harmonies and saccharine hooks with a slight twist on traditional instruments.
Perhaps this trajectory was all started by the title track, as “What About Lonely?” began as a Prids song that was rejected for being “too catchy”. It’s hard to deny that fact with the song’s bouncy backing harmonies and feel-good melody. One that stands in stark contrast with its melancholic lyrics. Yet with this rejection spawned a new band and record that is determined to seek out these feel-good ideas that may not have a place elsewhere.
Along with this pop direction, The Psychics also embraced the romantic along with the catchy. Later track “I Once Was in Love” is a slow-burner with lush guitars that serenade it’s narrator’s heavy sentiments. In “New Design” we see a different style, with a surf pop vibe and distortion that’s more in line with the member’s punk roots. Yet the la-la-las, the claps and the easygoing structure makes this song at home in the album.
Another highlight is the painfully nostalgic “Dum dum”, with its power pop style that would have sounded at home in 90’s radio stations and commercials. It sounds breezy but under the surface the lyrics are laced in darkness and despair. The Leading Psychics may have written out all their pop dreams in this record, but the pain and melancholy still plays a huge role in these songs.
What About Lonely? is a solid and consistent record. It’s a style of pop that honestly, would make the radio music of today sound better. But hey, things come and go – let’s just enjoy what we enjoy and share the artists that we love (along with their many side projects!).