Ryan Peck and Andrew Stensaas are instructors at Boise Rock School, a job that requires the ability to relate well to children. Yet Etta, the debut EP from the duo's band, Edmond Dantes, is strikingly mature.
Though the group took their time germinating--nearly a year of writing and rehearsing before their first gig--the five songs on Etta still sound as if they hatched from an egg fully formed, with well-conceived production, clever lyrics and an intriguing sound.
The songs have clear influences in soul and classic pop--both in their structures and the tone of Stensaas' vocals. But beneath his silky-smooth croon is the buzz and bleep of synth and disco-beat bass lines, firmly planting the band's flag in the realm of electro-pop.
"Decade," the first track on Etta, has clear shades of MGMT and Phoenix, if they were fronted by Hall and Oates. Synth bass buzzes as snappy drums punch through the mix. It's a strong opening.
Though the catchy melodies and production of Etta make it easy to hear any of the tracks as a single, "I Don't Like You," the second song, stands apart from the bunch with clever wordplay, flourishes of trumpet and a bluesy feel. Etta also features a dance remix of the song, "I Don't Like You (China Bleu Cheese remix)," as the EP's fifth and final track.
"Electric Lights," the third song, has a slower meter and moodier feel, with twinkles of synth beneath Stanton's lyrics about the existential crises of barflies. Big hits of twangy guitar make the chorus a punchy delight.
"No Good So Good," the fourth track, apes much of the catchiness of "I Don't Like You," with slinky rhymes about the dangers of love atop a danceable beat and bluesy electric piano riffs.
There is a world of difference between pop music and pop singers. Edmond Dantes is a band that isn't afraid to embrace catchy melodies and approachable songs. The result is an instantly inviting collection of tunes with broad appeal, and not even a whiff of the saccharine sweetness that turns pop into a four-letter word.
Though it's only five songs long, Etta is still one of the best recordings from a Boise band yet this year.