‘Pop Food’ delivers on 90’s nostalgia

Robert Pierce, @RobertP_EXP

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based, YouTube-popularized surrealist animator and musician Jack Stauber re-released three of his albums, previously only available on his YouTube channel or as digital downloads, on CD format last month.

Of the three, “Pop Food” offers a unique synth-laden, funk-infused, nostalgia-driven electronic experience with some serious art, emotion and charm behind and throughout it. The CD comes in a special case designed to look well worn and stained by coffee. “Pop Food” features several tracks with heavy, almost overpowering low bass notes, high feedback electric pianos, subtly distorted vocals and noise filters giving the album the distinct air of “late 90s/mid 2000s pop hit being played on your mid range car stereo with the bass knob at max.”

The opening track, “Buttercup,” made popular in part by a fanmade music video, sets the stage for the rest of the album while having enough individuality to scream “single material.” The track features the trademark harmonic low bass notes paired with bright melodies and poppish but abstract lyrics about painful love that instills a sense of bittersweet joy.

This odd mix of emotion also resonates through the next few tracks on the album, “Oh Klahoma” and “I Love You Verne Troyer,” the latter of which starts with an audio recording of the late “Austin Powers” actor and features sections of both thumping percussion and trancelike, haunting guitar.

“Koi Boy” slows things down, centering itself around a simplistic and recurring sleepy acoustic riff, and contrasts perfectly with “Dog Nightmare,” a more upbeat funk/rock track with a handful of sampled sound effects and spoken lines of dialogue that is easily the most high-energy piece of the album.

“Bothersome” opens with the sound of radio static dissipating ala Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and returns to the romantic acoustic sound explored in “Koi Boy,” marking a departure from the electronically filtered aesthetic a few of the remaining songs dip back into, but not all are bound to going forward.

Track eight, “My Plea,” is a comedic and peppy snack break, telling the story of a man who is mugged and uses the last of his change to use a payphone to beg an old friend for money to buy candy bars. Despite the absurd plot, the track features Stauber’s voice at its most genuine, with no accents or modulation.

Track 10, “I Understand,” introduces a more videogamey chiptune feel to the album, and also features sharp and progressive laser synth melodies unlike anything else on the disc.

The final track, “Candy Eyes,” offers a very clear, slow, contemplative, almost R&B like sound that offers the perfect end to the short-but-sweet jaunty trip the 36 minute album represents.

“Pop Food” and much more of Stauber’s content can be found on his YouTube channel at JackStauber where he posts not only songs and albums but also short animation skits done through various mediums.