For a band coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Minipop sounds straight-up old-fashion. It’s hard to pinpoint, but there seems to be more to this quintet (Tricia Kanne — vocals, keyboards, Lauren Grubb — drums, Matthew Swanson — guitar, Nick Forte — bass) than just Kanne’s vocal similarities to Nina Persson (lead singer of The Cardigans) and Harriet Wheeler (lead singer of The Sundays).
Minipop’s debut A New Hope surprisingly doesn’t sound all that contemporary (an exception being “Fingerprints” which could easily be mistaken for an Eisley song), leading to even more comparisons to the aforementioned Cardigans and Sundays.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Minipop was influenced by the two European bands, but my pseudo detective skills could only reveal that their influences are “you” and they sound like “Marshmellows [not a typo] on Morphine and Care-Bears on Xanax.” I didn’t know marshmallows could even make a sound, but there might be something to the Care Bears reference.
Dream pop, by all accurate measures, should be happy music right? Well, at the very least, it should sound happy, and that suits Minipop just fine. There’s a little-more-than-subtle depression that lingers throughout A New Hope, which could be viewed as love-gone sadness (“I was driving all the night / Just so I could feel you by my side”) like in “Like I Do” or as love-lost sadness (“You went away again” repeated) like in “My Little Bee”. You could look at it more romantically and use Saint Augustine’s famous quote “better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all,” but that’s like giving your date red roses and a heart-shape box of chocolate on Valentine’s Day.
It seems too simple. It could just be that simple, but love never is.
Minipop mixes slow and up-tempo tracks, but there is surprisingly only one truly uplifting song (“Butterflies”). The rest more-or-less sound better spent listening to while looking at raindrops than running around grass fields under a cloudless sky.
With an album titled A New Hope, there isn’t much to look forward to. Kanne’s smooth, and often soothing, vocals mask the somewhat gloomy lyrical truths. The genuinely tender “Generator” should have closed the album instead of the emotionally reflexive title track because everyone wants to be elevated by love, not disheartened by it. There’s a reason why romance novels exist. Only the truly depressed dream about getting their heart broken.