On the surface, Little Racer appears to be just one of many bands to sport the Brooklyn-obligated surf and shoegaze tags. But through numerous lineup changes amounting to nine total past and present members, some sort of break up, and a couple singles released in the U.K, these guys have finally found solid ground to stand on. It may have taken four years to get the engine revving, but Little Racer’s Modern Accent EP is packed with hooks, humor and most importantly, charisma.
This is due in part to the presence of frontman Elliot Michaud’s vocals, which are mixed to sound more like some dude who’s pushing his band’s newest demo at you at a basement show than your typical reverb-nestled gazer. The band noted in an interview with CMJ, “We started out writing pop music and we still do,” which would explain Michaud’s front-and-center position. Their confidence is a positive thing, and adds an extra layer of entertainment to tracks like Fake French, whose groove would be enough to accompany any balmy late night walk home. Dancing is another cut that’s all about the beat, and even though the greatest complexity we get out of the lyrics are lines like, “Talking to this girl next door/hoping that she’ll hit that floor,” the band achieves what is sure to be a favorite on many summer playlists by turning simplicity into finesse.
For the most part, Michaud’s personality and the competence of the rest of the band can make up for some occasionally less-than-inspired lyrics. But the Brit-pop swinger Ghosty, which sports lines like, “I’m a weightless spector passing through walls/In the coffee shop or in the mall,” doesn’t quite supply the sense of wonder and excitement that make for the stronger moments of this EP, despite its upbeat pulse.
Vanessa and Punk Life both show what the band can accomplish when they dial back the tempo. The former gracefully stumbles forward like our lovesick narrator, who succumbs to the ambiguous and stomach-knotting attraction that can only exist when you know the other person is unattainable. When Michaud defeatedly admits, “I see you waiting for another/I guess we’re falling apart/before we even start,” it’s relatable because we get front row seats to see how truly delusional we can be in these situations. As fun as summer can be, its freedom and carelessness can only last so long before someone ends up with their own Vanessa. Punk Life closes the album with a smirked nod to another disheartened dog-day moment. “Darling hold me closer/you know I lost my head/on that roller coster/Laying here in bed/Now you’re telling me that you want out the punk life,” Michaud recounts in this EP’s ode to throwing in the D.I.Y flag. While this song is packed with sarcastic references to drinking and fighting, a palpable air of disappointment caps off this release on a serious note.
Throughout Modern Accents, what remains constant is Little Racer’s comfortability in their performance. Even in its weaker moments, the band delivers confident pop tunes that, for the most part, excel in surrounding self-doubtful and cynical lyrics with a certain anything-can-happen-tonight atmosphere. A strong pop album will make you think and feel while you’re dancing and meeting glances all around the room. And Little Racer does just that with enough wit and depth to make you think twice about making the wobbly trek over to that cutie casually posted-up on the other side of the party.