[Paper Garden; 2012]

Experimental pop was a great blanket term for any artist that feels the need to add an element of weirdness to their otherwise accessible music. Nowadays it can be taken to mean almost anything, an indefinable genre of sorts. A quick search of the term on Bandcamp will reveal an endless list of albums that have little to nothing in common with one another. According to their website, Conveyor have elected to lump themselves into this category, but in this case the title really is out of necessity. Their self-titled debut hatchets through an impossible range of genres, sounds and styles, with the pop and the weirdness continuously jostling for position.

The hooks on Conveyor aren’t as populous as one would hope, but the clashing styles are sometime worth the price of admission on their own. The chummy “Woolgatherer” kicks things off, complete with 1UP noises, a trumpet, woodpecker sounds and quirky vocal harmonies. It efficiently demonstrates Conveyor’s willingness to try almost anything in the name of experimental pop. Lead single “Mane” strikes a similar chord, with a light, playful melody and a polyphonic interlude. These songs are unique in the way they combine specific elements, but they aren’t all that distinctive; they quickly bring to mind other groups like Yeasayer, Xiu Xiu, and even Maps & Atlases.

While many of the tracks on Conveyor have a kitchen sink mentality, others are so restrained that they almost seem out of place. With wind chimes, placid acoustic guitars and muggy production, “Reach” borders on ambient or even shoegaze. “Homes” stretches out a simple piano progression and a tribal drum loop into an emotionally charged three minutes. Despite the restraint on these tracks, they show that Conveyor can be more adventurous when they aren’t outwardly trying to be.

Several of the songs on Conveyor are experiments themselves, and, inevitably, some of them fail. “Mom Talk” strives for the giddy looseness of Animal Collective, but with kid gloves and much less melodic acumen. “Short Hair” is a baffling piece of goofball pop rock. The refrain of: “You have short hair/ I was afraid of your short hair” sounds like something your counselors would sing to you back when you used to go to summer camp.

I’m sure that sensory overload wasn’t the intention behind Conveyor, but it can feel that way sometimes. The band tries to cover so much ground on this album; not a lot of it will stick with you. “Right Sleep” is one of the more straightforward tracks, and stands out for that very reason. The record’s middle third is the strongest, as there is less opportunity for Conveyor to meander and more space to flesh out their hooks. This middle third is the strongest because it emphasizes songwriting over chaos and whimsy. Conveyor boasts considerable musical latitude, but it’s painfully unfocused; this is just the sound of a fresh-faced band finding their footing.

Grade: 60%