Review: Antarctigo Vespucci's 'Love in the Time of E-Mail'


The title of power-pop superduo Antarctigo Vespucci’s label debut Love in the Time of E-Mail says more about the record’s sound than you might think. Much like e-mail as a form of communication, the sound the group brings to this record is modern yet nostalgic. Buzzing synths and fuzzy guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early 2000’s alt-radio album dominate the record while bringing it to current year via Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock’s undeniably unique music chemistry.

Farren and Rosenstock are bandmates; co-hosts of their own Lost podcast; and co-best buds forever, the last of which is very apparent on their past three Antarctigo Vespucci releases. Especially on their first effort Soulmate Stuff, the collaboration felt more like two close friends having a blast creating music together than a motivated attempt to push themselves as musicians. Not to say these releases were lackluster by any means, but when Polyvinyl announced they had signed the band, I was hoping they would really come into their own for their label debut.

And boy, were expectations exceeded.

This record is loaded with catchy alt-pop tunes that are so expertly crafted that it’s sort of astounding. Early highlight “White Noise” enters its first chorus before the 0:22 mark, but it still provides a substantial intro and verse that perfectly set the song up. The way that punky lead single “Freakin’ U Out” is structured is nothing short of impeccable and could be used as a template in “Song Structure for Dummies.” Much like the majority of the tracklist, this song is arranged in a way where there’s always something new going on, even if it’s repeating the intro. Whether it’s a dynamic shift or a new synth lead, something unique to that moment is constantly happening to keep the listener engaged throughout the record. This only allows for the bounty of hooks to burrow their way deeper into your head.

Isn’t that the goal of (power-)pop anyway?

While the record’s title says a lot about the sound, lyrically, Love in the Time of E-Mail isn’t about technology. It isn’t even really about love, either. It’s about something a lot more specific and personal than that: one nervous person’s navigation of the two. Farren dances around lyrical clich├ęs, opting instead to focus on his own reflections of situations rather than the situations themselves. The centerpiece of the record, “So Vivid!” might just turn the derogatory label “Weezer-worship” into a compliment; it details the experience of getting over someone from the past. The track chooses to focus on the phenomenon of the deterioration of their mental image as time passes, which to Farren is what “getting better in the worst way” is. Worries range from everyone close just faking interest on bouncy tech-jam “Breathless on DVD” to life being a simulation on the relentless roller-coaster ride that is “The Price Is Right Theme Song.” The album tackles some very real and frightening feelings in its lyrics, while catchy hooks and Farren’s vocal delivery blend together to sound like the boy-next-door band that the cool girl next door tells you to check out.

The weaker moments tend to be underwhelming only in comparison to how strong the rest of the record is. For example, “Do It Over” is an effective gentle song with some of the strongest lyrical themes on the record, but it bears a sound that’s a bit too slight to stand out against the rest of the tracklist. “Another Good Thing” suffers from inconsistent and unfocused dynamics, which is only apparent from being surrounded by songs with pinpoint precision.

In all, Antarctigo Vespucci have delivered a slew of tracks that are as catchy as they are well-crafted. People form bands with aspirations to pull off musical moments like when the wading build-up in “So Vivid!” explodes into its solo, and here Farren and Rosenstock do it with seemingly little effort. While the record is here to remind you of relationships gone cold, the slippery slope of excessive worry, and the expectation of change that never comes, it’s also here to remind you that you can always dance about it.

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