On the penultimate episode of Master Chef Junior a few weeks ago, two contestants were eliminated and unable to enter the finals. Before they left, Gordon Ramsey said some encouraging words while dramatic stock music played over flashbacks of their key experiences on the show. I got teary-eyed but felt sort of pathetic. Am I this easily manipulated? Do I even care about these kids? Isn’t most of this show scripted? A week later, Deep Trouble dropped and I immediately thought of that scene. It, along with this three song EP remind me of why I ever loved PC Music in the first place. Stuff like GFOTY’s “Don’t Wanna / Let’s Do It“ intentionally tries to capture pop at its most bizarre a la My Teenage Dream Ended while something like Kane West’s cover of “Archangel” is absurdly humorous. Both of these elements are largely missing in pop music but what really keeps me coming back to PC Music is the way it channels teen pop’s wide-eyed, idealistic views of life and love. I engage with PC Music in a way I do a lot of other genres but there’s a strong, empathetic response I have to their songs that reminds me most of Ark Music Factory and the songs they create for children. It just feels “authentic”, at least relatively. But despite the inauthentic sheen of PC Music’s aesthetics, their artists’ embrace of “unfashionable” pop sounds has a similar way of breaking down my cynicism (see also: bvdub). And when expertly produced, like the three tracks on here by Finn Keane, their lyrics feel more sincere than most of the chart-topping manufactured pop from around the world.
On “Laplander”, lyrics about a crumbling romance culminate in celebratory shouts. It’s surprisingly empowering, and all of its cliché lyrics only echo the universality of such an experience. “Full Circle” also concerns an unrequited love but appropriately flips the roles. If the instrumentation and teeny bopper vocalizing didn’t already conjure up thoughts of middle school infatuation then the specific mention of a “locker room” will further cement that idea. For how silly a lot of our teenage drama may seem in retrospect, the emotional intensity was still real. “Even though we’re meant to be / why don’t you need me?” may sound like something from an immature adolescent’s diary but it’s poignant in its naivety, the sort of truth only kids can so candidly exclaim. The first easyFun EP was aggressively colorful, a tongue-in-cheek collage of Glass Swords panache and grooves. Its only use of vocals was accessory but the EP showed how Keane has a knack for sound design. Deep Trouble is a bit more straightforward but it’s just as vibrant and shows how well he can extract unbridled joy from each saccharine blip. Most exemplary of this is “Fanta”, the only song on the EP whose lyrics are a bit difficult to parse. A minute into the song, Keane strips the song down and the lyrics that are clear—”you’re my fantasy”, “baby you don’t look at me”, “once in your life”—are imbued with a pained aching that didn’t exist when we heard them earlier. All in all, easyFun’s Deep Trouble is a reminder of how PC Music’s brash approach of capturing various emotions can feel so invigorating. More importantly, it’s the most fun 11 minutes from any artist this year.