If you couldn’t already tell from the title, Prince Rama’s Top Ten Hits Of The End Of The World certainly spins an eclectic tale. Released via Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks imprint, Top Ten Hits is essentially a collection of apocalyptic chart toppers. Brooklyn-based sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson conceptualized ten fictional pop bands that met their makers when the world ended. Each song on the album is brought to us by a different one of these bands–well, their channeled spirits, that is.
Such a concept is almost expected from a band that’s known for songs like “A Fifteen Minute Exorcise,” an ’80’s-eque aerobic instructional of sorts. Unsurprisingly, Taraka and Nimai have the untraditional upbringing to match. They were raised on a Hare Krishna commune in Florida by parents who feared the end of the world.
Because Top Ten Hits Of The End Of The World is brought to us courtesy of various ghost groups, each song is different–but not different enough to convincingly be from separate artists. Unifying elements (playful synth, psychedelia, and reverb galore) make it pretty clear that the album comes from a singular creator. Sadly, this very brave attempt at a very bizarre concept falls short. It doesn’t deliver the promised punch expected from such an undertaking.
However, as one would expect from a seance-like experience, Top Ten Hits Of The End Of The World has no lack of theatrics; deep, demonic voices and chanting are peppered throughout the album. The echoing “So Destroyed,” a high point, ties together these channeled voices with floaty harmonies. International twists and tribal drums can also be rooted out in a few songs. In fact, the opener “Blades of Austerity”–positively steeped in an Arabic back beat–is a definite strong point on the album. All of this plus the constancy of clouded vocals swimming in layers make this a pop album through a filter of brazen weirdness.
That’s not to say Prince Rama take themselves too seriously. Moments like the breathy repeated line “The end is near and you shall live forever” in third track, “Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever,” lends us hints that Taraka and Nimai recognize the absurdity of it all. ’80s-inspired beats that reach levels of goofiness on songs like “Exercise Ecstasy” add to the ridiculousness—the sisters know how to poke fun at their obsession with the macabre.
All in all, it’s a good old, ectoplasm-spewing time, but the album could have gone further. Tinges of pop make it digestible, but not something you’re compelled to keep listening to. The theatrics are a nice touch, but still, the imagined spirit bands sound too similar to actually be different. An ambitious concept, but not fully executed, Top Ten Hits Of The End Of The World is stuck somewhere in-between.