Collage of Pom Poko “Cheater” with mustard background

Pom Poko: Cheater Album Review

By Diamond Marie Pedroza
Music Journalist

In January 2021, Pom Poko released their sophomore album, Cheater. Not only is Cheater their best album yet, but each of its 10 songs provides excellent material to dance to.

Pom Poko is a Norwegian art-rock band signed to the U.K. record label, Bella Union. They named themselves Pom Poko after the Studio Ghibli film, “Pom Poko,” even though they had never seen the film.

Every song on Cheater demands attention and has a definable chorus. Most of the songs come across as positive or aspirational. Through the prominent use of instruments and simple lyrics, this art-rock and post-punk album is carefree and fun.

“Cheater” is the first song on the album and is also the title of the album. Immediately, listeners get to know Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit, the lead singer’s Bjork-style voice.

In Cheater, she sings about making an effort to do something, but later finding out your efforts were not appreciated. Most of the song is made up of distorted guitar sounds that gain momentum and conclude the song as it started.

“Like A Lady” has a hard beginning, which reminds me of the way Bully, an American rock band, similarly employs sound in their songs. The mix of soft high-pitched vocals with an upbeat background sends listeners into a chorus that induces the feeling of one’s mind spiraling out of control.

The song ends in intentional chaos the way Operator Please, an Australian pop band, ends some of their songs.

“Andrew” begins with a cowbell-like sound and is met with light vocals. Though it is short, the drums on “Andrew” pair well with its chorus to start a great sing-along moment.

“My Candidacy” relies on the effect its instrumentals bring. At some points, all of the instruments stop playing except for a lone guitar that highlights Jamtveit’s strong vocals.

The only point where the album slows down is during “Danger Baby.” It’s a smooth and welcomed transition with numerous tiny sounds in the background, connecting in unison.

 Just as the tamest song on the album finishes, the next song, “Andy Go To School,” enters with an upbeat instrumental background again. The chorus is similar to the way the band Chai, a Japanese rock band, forms their choruses.

Chai commonly uses controlled yelling that builds up to their choruses. Though the ending is a little confusing, the song makes you want to jump or dance when Jamtveit sings, “clap your hands and everybody get down.”

A 2014-era St. Vincent-like technique is employed in “Look” when the instrumental and vocal combos hit together.

 In “Look,” the heavy guitars go crazy and work around Jamtveit’s voice with near-perfect execution. Following “Look,” “Baroque Denial” is the least understandable. The vocals are muddled, and the song seems to act as an instrumental transition to the next song.

pom poko green lyrics “change the focus things get better” with peach background
Pom Poko lyrics “change the focus things get better.” Photo by Diamond Marie Pedroza

“Curly Romance” has a beautiful chorus with a quality beat and a somewhat prog rock-ish sound. It is followed by “Body Level,” which is the last song on the album.

 It is a positive-sounding song to end the album with, not only on an instrumental level but also on a lyrical one. The song ends with the lyrics, “change the focus/things get better.”

Pom Poko creates their unique universe with recycled sounds to make an album you won’t fall asleep to. It’s something to get lost in because all of the prominent moments in each song blend nicely together.

Pom Poko is slated to go on a European tour starting in September 2021.

[4:19 PM] Pedroza, Diamond Marie V

Here are Pom Poko’s links:

Twitter
Bandcamp

Website

Spotify

Instagram
SoundCloud

Featured image courtesy of Bella Union Records.

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