Say what you will about pop musicit's crass, superficial, derivativebut it is really hard to make. You can put together a passable noise punk set in a month, but you could go your whole life and not come up with anything as catchy as "Material Girl." Writing a good pop song is like writing a good joke. And even if you wouldn't want to listen to jokes all day, every day, you have to appreciate the craft.
As I write this, I am appreciating the hell out of Hey Marseilles's new LP. Neither the strings nor the melodrama suits my personal taste, but Lines We Trace is mad crafted. The album is a concentrated burst of effort from a band that has chosen the difficult path of evoking powerful emotion quietly. At a time when pop is working with the deafening sonic palette of electronic dance music and rock has made messy into an affectation, such meticulous, baroque arrangements sound like a manifesto. But Hey Marseilles is not just theoretically enjoyable. The best part of Lines We Trace is that I kept hearing it after it stopped playing. That's what separates the pop from the chaff.
Hey Marseilles plays Stage 112 Sat., June 8, at 9 PM with Skin Flowers and Airstream Safari. $12/$10 advance at ticketfly.