September 20, 2013

"Pumpin Blood" by NONONO

Sometimes you take a bite of a fresh-baked cookie and the taste is so full and complete that you wonder if you'll ever taste anything so delicious ever again. This week's single is nothing like that. It's better compared to one of those green smoothie drinks filled with kale, spinach and celery. It tastes good initially, but you mull it over a bit longer and find the aftertaste doesn't sit quite right.

NONONO, rumored to be a very disagreeable band, is a trio from Sweden formed in 2012, and so is relatively new to the music scene. Chasing the coattails of Swedish pop a la Icona Pop, NONONO captures similar catchy riffs and synth pop sounds, but is less electronic/dance, more alt-pop. I really enjoy their sound, and I like the song, but I don't think I can listen to it. Play the video below and I'll explain.

Before paying attention to the music, be prepared to have your heart melted by the love story between this man and his pet rabbit. As "Pumpin Blood" opens, I love the simple guitar chords, the driving drum beat and the whistling is catchy, if a bit out of tune. I listen to this intro and want to love this song, and then NONONO's front woman, Stina W├Ąppling, begins to sing. I like everything about this song except for her voice. It's airy and unintelligible, and it's hard to make out any of the lyrics. Her singing isn't precise and chorally proficient, which I can normally tolerate in exchange for passion and vocal talent, but I don't get any of that from Stina. Her voice would be just bland if it weren't for the fact that it is pitchy and heavily distorted. Stina's singing is the bitter celery aftertaste of an otherwise catchy, engaging, well-produced pop song.

What's worse is that "Pumpin Blood", the title track of their new EP, isn't the only perfectly good song to fall victim to Stina's subpar vocals. "Fire Without a Flame" is an incredibly catchy number with awesome synth work. Stina's vocals aren't quite so heavily distorted, so it's actually palatable, but it stands that a better vocalist would do this group huge favors. The other tracks on the album, "Jungle" and "Like the Wind" suffer the same fates.

Weeks like this disappoint me. When I find a free single that I really love listening to, I feel like I've found some kind of great treasure. I take pride in having my friends listen to it, having them share in my experience, and then waiting to see if the track ever makes its way on to the radio, becoming more valuable over time. Listening to a song like this, I don't have to wonder for a second if it will ever climb the charts like "Clarity" by Zedd, or "Midnight City" by M83 - both free singles in their time. "Pumpin Blood" is going to wallow in obscurity, and imagine so will NONONO unless they find a proper pop vocalist to carry their superior songwriting. Until then, I give this track a...

2.5 out of 5.

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