Bogan Via are a young Phoenix, AZ duo who have been making music for barely a year and a half. Well, at least that is what the press sheet says, although the accomplished feel of the songs collected here led me to believe that Bret Bender and Madeleine Miller didn't just pick up instruments for the first time 18 months ago...
Miller, in particular, obviously has received some voice coaching. In fact, it was her powerful singing that drew me to this band. Their label sent us a few tracks, and when i heard TES the strength of her vocals, the deep wailing over that funky beat, really drew me in. I liked it so much, i asked the label to send me a download of the full EP.
And i am glad i did. Bogan Via have a lot of great ideas and make some damned catchy songs. Miller and Bender trade vocals, both of them singing in a crisp way with slightly odd pronunciation -- the words are a little clipped at the end and some of the vowels seem oddly short to me. Is that the difference between a Southern and an Arizona accent? I am not sure i have ever met any actually from Arizona... That aside, both of them know how to sing.
The music is wrapped around their voices in a way to emphasize the vocals, which only works because of the quality of their voices. The music tends to be kind of minimal and somewhat beat heavy -- not beat heavy in the sense that they are doing dubstep, but rather that rhythm instruments are second in priority to the voices, driving the songs along.
Perhaps examining the tunes will show what i mean.
Wait UP is driven by a staccato piano riff, sparse drumming, and steady guitar strumming. There are keys and synth strings layered behind that, and the whole thing reminds me of Ben Folds Five, only with great female vocals.
On the other hand, Copy and Paste is a sheer synthpop song, with a driving drum beat, and Miller's voice rich and wailing. Keyboards waver in layers, and the drum beat drives the song along mercilessly. Honestly, this song reminds me a lot of Fever Ray or The Knife. I, of course, love this tune.
The two vocalists trade lines in Manny over layers of happy burbling synths and a nice scattered drum riff. This song gets really dense, the two of them layering in lots of synths on the choruses.
And then we have TES, the promo track that drew me in to this band. It is a stunning tune, with Miller's voice front and center, just wailing and reverbing. The music behind her is warbling synth and sparse percussion that builds to a real swaying chorus, Miller wailing away while Bender adds some light harmony. And wait, is that a xylophone thunking away as well? Overall, this reminds me of Class Actress, only sparser and with a better vocalist. (And Miller can, in fact, sing circles around Elizabeth Harper!)
Afternoon Wonderland is more of a folk song, the two of them harmonizing over strummed guitar and strings. In the middle, a piano riff is layered in, while the strings rise up to almost overpower everything. For some reason, this reminds me of Revolver-era Beatles, specifically Eleanor Rigby.
And finally the EP ends with Kanye, with a silly beat box rhythm looped alongside a distorted cymbal crash and a staccato piano riff. Bender and Miller wail over this. It's another fun, swinging tune, and a great end to their debut.
So as you can see, there is a lot to like here, and i am rather impressed. I look forward to more from this act.