I've always had a mildly condescending view of bands that gain most of their original notoriety from covering another band's songs. Perhaps this perspective comes from being a loyal attendee of the Vans Warped Tour for five or six years now. The tour's most recent offerings, at least to a certain degree, seem to lack originality. At recent Warped Tours, one may find it quite difficult to avoid hearing some new pop-punk group's over-autotuned, unsubstantiated cover of some hit song by Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, the Backstreet Boys or some other artist of similarly distasteful character. The idea of taking advantage of some icon's fame in order to make a name for your own band seems to me, at least on the surface, to be a bit of a contemptible practice.
That being said, take a guess as to how I first discovered the indie duo Pomplamoose. You got it, I heard one of their covers, and chances are, so have you. Hyundai Automotive's most recent advertisement gimmick includes a series of short television commercials featuring Pomplamoose, donned in their perfectly picked holiday sweaters and scarves that were certainly purchased either at Urban Outfitters or a thrift store, singing covers of popular Christmas songs. Something immediately stood out about this musical duo, however, which probably explains why I did a comprehensive Google, Youtube, etc. search of them after seeing the ad. Perhaps it was Nataly Dawn's enormous, perfectly fixated eyeballs and undeniably adorable demeanor. Maybe it was the band's general quirkiness. I really don't know why I pursued Pomplamoose, but I'm damn glad that I did.
Their debut effort, entitled "Pomplamoose VideoSongs", shows incredible promise and will fail to disappoint even the most seasoned of music critics. The record contains 13 songs, 8 of which are original works by Dawn and her musical counterpart, Jack Conte. The opening song, entitled "Pas Encore" (French for "not yet"), is a wonderful three-minute plea by Dawn to her new lover, in which she expresses her hope that he will not leave her side and render her feeling spiteful and sorrowful like all the other boys have done. Nataly's perfectly subtle harmonies litter the track from start to finish, providing a comforting complement to the duo's simple yet catchy instrumentation. Dawn and Conte's jazz-based background really comes out on the fourth track of the album, "Centrifuge". Musically, the track is delightful to listen to, with its continuous, jazzy drumbeat accompanying a catchy xylophone/synth melody. The lyrics call to mind Yeasayer's "Ambling Alp", with their classic and upbeat "keep your chin up, kiddo" theme. "Expiration Date" is another likable track to be found on VideoSongs, in which Dawn sings about how she'd like to get over her lover, who has apparently lost the charm and appeal that once made him so alluring.
If there is anything on VideoSongs to criticize, it's the lack of depth and complexity that the album harbors. If you're looking for a revolutionary new record that will blow your mind, VideoSongs most likely will not leave you feeling satisfied. However, it is a very amusing start-to-finish listen, and I certainly recommend it. Also, five out of thirteen of the tracks are Pomplamoose covering other bands, something which I expressed an aversion to. That being said, these aren't Brittany Spears or N'Sync covers. They're renditions of some fine and respectable acts, including Simon & Garfunkel and Feist. As I said, I definitely recommend giving VideoSongs a listen; I doubt you'll be disappointed.
thank god Mike Seely over at Seattle Weekly has written this so that i don't have to:
Pomplamoose's Christmas Hyundai Commercials Cause Hatred of Pomplamoose, Hyundai and Christmas
By Mike Seely, Tue., Dec. 21 2010 @ 6:00AM
As car companies go, I've always liked Hyundai. They produce modest, reliable and affordable cars with little fanfare. I don't really have a problem with Christmas either; despite its over-commercialization, it tends to bring people together and send them into the new year with a renewed sense of optimism. Nor do I have a problem with independent music acts cashing in on corporate America's desire to "cool up" their image. And until recently, I didn't have an opinion of Pomplamoose, a Bay Area indie-pop duo best-known for its snarky cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and selling its music exclusively online.
But now that Pomplamoose has produced a series of Christmas commercials for Hyundai, my opinions of all these entities have been forever altered.
If you haven't seen the ads, you don't watch television. They're that ubiquitous. They feature Pomplamoose covers of three carols: "Up on the Housetop," "Jingle Bells," and "Deck the Halls." The commercials are effectively videos of these covers, and they have served to cement lead singer Nataly (note the ultra-precious spelling of "Natalie," as well as the ultra-precious bandname) Dawn's status as the most annoying woman on earth.
In the videos, Dawn smirks as she's shown in a variety of cozy sweaters and scarves, singing the carols in generic-Grey's Anatomy-chick-voice, a vocal style that probably needs no further explanation than that. After you hear it five times (this will happen within the first half-hour of watching pretty much any program on television), you're ambivalent. Ten times, you're annoyed. Fifteen times, Dawn's voice is like nails on a chalkboard. Twenty times and it's like fire ants gnawing at your crotch. Twenty-five times and you'll want to go all Elvis and shoot the TV. Thirty times and you'll want to drive your car into the nearest Hyundai. Thirty-five times and you'll want to drive an out-of-control Army tank over every new vehicle in a Hyundai lot. Forty times and you'll want Dawn to contract a case of terminal laryngitis. Forty-five times and you'll want to amputate every last one of Santa's reindeer. Fifty times and you'll wish Jesus announced it was time to stop celebrating his birthday.
But, really, don't take my word for it. Just watch the clip 5-50 times and judge for yourself.