|Marc Bianchi is proof that, yes, there is life after emo. And though Bianchi crossed-over genres ten years ago, his nostalgia for things emo[tional] has unexpectedly resurfaced.|
Under the moniker Her Space Holiday, Bianchi established himself as a hardcore-kid-turned-indietronic soundmaker. With his sixth full-length album, XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival, comes a divergence from his defining brand of electro-infused indie-rock to unapologetic, cadenced pop. Bianchi's new direction allows him to explore some uncharted territory; channeling his inner love-struck teenager, he creates a fervently hopeful and infatuated alter-ego.
A departure from 2005's melodramatic The Past Presents the Future and 2004's dreamy The Young Machines, XOXO strays from the ambience and spaciness of Her Space Holiday's previous works. In an attempt to reinvent, Bianchi abandons his reliable tech toys in favor of a stompy pop sound with folky undertones. Scrapping the computer-produced droning, he opts for guitar, banjo, mandolin, shakers, and glockenspiel in the album's full band arrangements.
Bianchi shows his emo roots with his sometimes playful, sometimes cringe-inducing lyrics that gush with an uninhibited, childlike earnestness. Typically, an album with such overt preciousness and drippy sentiment would be rendered cheesy, too cutesy. But for the most part, XOXO offsets its heavy-handed adorableness with its self-aware disposition and "don't take yourself too seriously" sensibility.
In a most uncomplicated way, Bianchi's lyrical focus is squared on conventional pop themes, namely boy-meets-girl, the newness and curiosity of relationships, the near actualization of love, et cetera. Bianchi has a grasp of the tipping point, of when to stop pushing before turning schmaltzy. He toes the line a few times, but not enough to discount his efforts - the slight distortion on "Two Tin" makes the chorus of "I love yous" seem tolerable.
Between tra-la-la-ing and prompting others to "Sing out your joy/ raise up your voice," XOXO hints at the sunny surf-rock of the 1960s. While indie purists might resent Bianchi's one-eighty, it shouldn't be regarded as a betrayal, but rather as escapist fun. Much like Tilly and the Wall, a band that unabashedly stomps, claps, and tap-dances along to kid-friendly melodies, Her Space Holiday embraces the irony of intentionally producing innocent, syrupy sweet pop. His message comes through on the album's closer, "One for my Soul": "All that matters is we keep on dancing." Through the lens of cynical hipsterdom, this optimistic re-route may not be viable. It may also draw some well-earned grins, recognition that a return to a former time can be a good thing. - Lost At Sea