When comparing brothers, you’ll usually find that while they are different and unique people, there are similar enough for you to know unquestionably that they’re related. I can’t speak for Kody and Ruban Nielson on a personal level, but on a musical level this is certainly true. After the brothers’ previous band Mint Chicks disbanded, they both went their separate ways with new projects; Ruban had great success with Unknown Mortal Orchestra last year, and now Kody aims to follow suit with Opossom. The similarities between the bands are clear: roots in classic pop, skittering drums laying a foundation, and songs that remain short and sweet, not overstaying their welcome (Electric Hawaii packs 10 songs into 30 minutes). But, these are still two completely different albums.
Electric Hawaii is, as its title suggests, vibrant and made for summertime listening at a beach, in the car with the windows down, or simply lounging around in the sun. The opening tracks go straight for the jugular with irresistible tropicalia-inspired melodies. They incorporate organ and xylophone seamlessly around the ricocheting rhythms, and the harmonized vocals seem to bloom naturally like flowers out of this foundation. Electric Hawaii’s opening portion works well as a set, but it’s easy to pick out the lead single “Blue Meanies” as the standout. With its twinkling atmospherics and delightfully childlike chorus, the song is set to get stuck in your head for the rest of summer. Other songs on the album such as “Getaway Tonight” and “Why Why” are equally as delightful, but essentially boil down to the same basic components, and on repeat listens to Electric Hawaii the similarities between songs becomes glaring.
However, towards the album’s back end Opossom show that they have some other tricks up their sleeves. “Cola Elixir” is an exciting track that trades off thumping bass and twanging guitars in the verse with an enchanting breezy chorus about their favourite soft drink. “Outer Space” finds Nielson’s vocals robotically compressed through a vocoder over sparse keyboards before the song drifts off into a dreamy instrumental, all packed in a 3-minute bundle. And the album’s conclusion, “Inhaler Song,” finds them incorporating rough textures into their music for the first time on the album, creating an interesting combination with their serene melody, which rests beneath.
Opossom haven’t created anything particularly grand or unique here, but overall Electric Hawaii is one of the most easily replayable albums to be released this year. Its short length, brightness and liveliness will keep you hitting the repeat button as long as we’re still in the summer months. And, there’s plenty here, from the band’s dynamics to their willingness to dabble in different styles, which suggests that a steady growth in sound and scope can be expected as they move forwards.