Review Summary: A comprehensive collection of Stauber’s hypnagogic micropop.
Jack Stauber, in addition to releasing a number of independent records and extended singles, is a master of the short song format. Coined as “micropop” (not to be confused with the Japanese art movement), these 30-seconds-to-1-minute segments are long enough to wet the pallette with eccentric melodies, but short enough to leave the listener wanting more. Always accompanied with an equally bizarre and often uncanny-valley-esque music video created with a blend of claymation, digital animation, live-action footage, and VHS nostalgia, these songs are often experimental and zolo-esque. In other words, these multimedia projects are somewhere between the crossroads of David Bowie’s vocal chords, They Might Be Giants’ humor, XTC’s song dynamics, and Tim Burton’s affection for the awkward and uncomfortable.
As you can guess, these combinations of influences, plus Stauber’s own multifaceted talents, have led to quite the sizable cult following on Youtube and elsewhere. And, while some of this fanbase supports his full-length endeavors, most of his 600,000+ followers are in it for those short bits of surrealist pop. As such, Stauber has started to cater to those subscribers by extending fan favorite songs like “Hamburger Family,” “Al Dente,” “Inchman,” and “The Ballad of Hamantha” and, now, dropping a compilation of previously released and unreleased song snippets. With none of the 99 tracks reaching over the 1:40 mark, Stauber unveiled Micropop
with no announcement or fanfare.
When analysing the content of Micropop
, I feel like the record is better viewed in the context of a compilation or a soundtrack to Stauber’s strange youtube channel, rather than as a full-fledged LP. This isn’t a slight or critique, just more of a mindset when approaching this 65 minute record that is, presumably, for fans of Stauber’s many works. The contents of Micropop
wouldn’t make for a very good starting point for the works of Jack, especially since this release divorces the entire visual aspect of pieces like “Don’t Say That Word That Makes Me Laugh,” “The Lima Bean Man,” and “Bumblebees are Out.” On the other hand, Micropop
is an extensive exploration through the catchy and experimental songs that fans are either well acquainted with or haven’t yet experienced.
Yes, the new tracks, whether worked on specifically for this compilation or (more likely) were finished but never turned into a full music video, are one of the main appeals of Micropop
. Songs like “Behead it All” and “I Hope You Miss Me In Heaven” find their way comfortably into the collection of Stauber’s emotionally-wrought-yet-extremely-silly dives into themes of longing, loneliness, misery, hope, love, and whatever else was on the mind of Jack when he was devising these short synth-pop/hypnagogic pop/lo-fi indie (et cetera, et cetera) jingles. In addition, you also get the fun and/or harrowing previous works of Stauber, making for an extremely eclectic, flowing experience of antsy pop. Some songs are melodic and focused, some are conversational in tone and execution, some are dark and foreboding, some are acoustic rock, some are mini-piano ballads. Some tracks sound like sadness, some sound like glee, and some sound like the frantic episodes of someone losing touch with sanity.
In writing this, I feel like I’ve armchair-deduced the reason this was released so impromptu and quietly. It’s not really an album in the traditional sense and it’s by no means the first exposure one should have with all of these songs. It’s far too long, fluidly-structured, and unfocused to be a proper introduction to any artist, let alone one as creative and unique as Jack Stauber. Still, it’s an awesome gift for those already sold on the unique and off-kilter world of micropop. It’s hardly perfect (it misses a few of my favorite microsongs from Stauber’s past, it’s a bit long, it lacks the replay value of it’s video counterparts, the sum of its parts is weaker than the pieces), but it’s crude, contradictory, and diverse in all the right ways. Stauber is an artist who deserves your love, but Micropop
own comprehensiveness is it’s downfall in the accessibility market.