Back in 2012, Diana Barraza fronted LA twee-pop quintet Sweater Girls, who dropped an irresistibly catchy collection of sugary pop in the Tiger Trap/Velocity Girl mould before seemingly disappearing off the face of the planet. Arguably not a huge dent in the great pop landscape, but a real shame for fans of deceptively salty bubblegum pop with melodies to die for.
Here’s the good news: Barraza is back, and along with guitarist/songwriting foil Gregory Johnson, she now unleashes the debut LP from current project Rat Fancy. ‘Stay Cool’ sees all the best elements of her old band – hooks, warmth, an affinity for the K Records catalogue that’d make Diet Cig seethe with envy – mesh with something louder and perhaps more enduring, as Johnson’s layers of fuzzed-out jangle drive them away from the sound of the indie ghettos and closer to powerpop heaven.
Need proof? Try the winning simplicity of the album’s title track, which makes the phrase ‘don’t be sad’ sound less like the trite offerings of someone with a ‘live laugh love’ motif embellishing their living room wall and more like a straightforward, essential philosophy. Or ‘Never Is Forever’, an eminently hummable #MeToo anthem that offers a no-words-minced rejection of a guy caught ‘acting creepy at the show’, shortly before ‘Stuck With You’ rams its way into your skull with all the velocity of their SoCal punk forebears.
Best of all is ‘Beyond Belief’, which throws bargain basement synths against nagging, instantly arresting guitars before climaxing with a spoken word coda straight out of the Jan & Dean playbook – Rat Fancy exhibit a working knowledge of pop history, but also a sense of self that defines them as surely as notions like influences or sonic signifiers.
Sure, for some this’ll be too sweet to swallow, but for everyone else ‘Stay Cool’ is a genuine treat to be savoured.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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