Led by Black Mountain-based musician Matt Langston, Eleventyseven is a high-energy synth-pop trio. (The band as a whole calls Greenville, S.C. home.) According to the group’s bio, Langston formed Eleventyseven after getting tired of the negativity prevalent in mainstream pop: “Knives. Night. Pain. Winter. We have been put here to enjoy the blessings in life, not cry about the curse of our self-inflicted pain,” he writes.
The band’s new EP, Quota is certainly uplifting — almost obsessively, insistently, manically so. It borrows ‘80s synthesizers and the ‘90s club beats. From the intro to opening song, “Book of Secrets,” the album leaves the gate at a gallop. But Quota is also buoyant and bright. Add any of these songs to your iPod mix if you want to shave half-a-minute off your 5K race time — it’s got that kind of punch and drive, while still possessing all the clean, feel-good qualities that make the songs prime candidates for a soundtrack from any movie starring Amanda Seyfried.
Where “Book of Secrets” drips autotune and increasingly layered instrumentation, “College Girls” is a more straight-forward rocker. It opens with a Brian Adams snarl, and even though the chorus builds over blipping synths, there’s a foundation of garage-y guitar. Simple but apt lines like “She’s gonna spend her weekend like so, just hanging with her girlfriends, whoa-oh” recall the Ramones as much as, say, LFO or Sugar Ray — bands that knew (in their individual genres) that less was more and fun was key.
“Drivers in a Hurricane” launches into dance-y techno-pop with a bubbly burst of sythesizers followed by driving guitars and drums. The combination of live and fabricated beats creates interesting textures in the music, and the hook is just that: hooky. “Our music makes fun of almost everything,” Langston says in the band’s bio. “I look back at experiences I’ve had, realize what a ‘loser’ I was, and I have a huge laugh. No one is really that cool, and we want people to learn to take themselves less seriously.” But the songs do tend to contain gems of wisdom and encouragement for listeners. “You begin giving in to the extraordinary, ordinary life,” says “Drivers.”
The title track has a completely different feel. It’s less layered and kicks off with a fast-paced skank beat, in the crisp skacore made famous by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. With a touch of Vampire Weekend. While this isn’t typical of Eleventyseven, the band makes neat work of the style, and the snappy, upbeat sound is a perfect fit for the chorus, “I don’t want to live my life just to meet a quota, taking everyone’s orders, marching around like a corporate soldier. I wanna live life like every day is golden.” (Listen to the track, below.)
For the final track, it’s kind of back to the future, with an updated but immediately-recognizable version of A-Ha‘s ‘80s one-hit-wonder, “Take On Me.” Having spent an embarrassing amount of time in junior high obsessing over Morten Harket’s vocal and the particular synth-pop confection that is “Take On Me,” I can say that Eleventyseven’s version is true to the original. It’s faster, and the guitars and synthesizer both produce sounds that seem light years ahead of what the Norwegian band created. But Langston easily hits the high notes that have become Harket’s legacy.
Back to the intro, for a moment, and Langston’s comment about negativity prevalent in mainstream pop. From the vision, the musician formed Eleventyseven as a Christian pop-punk band. Worth noting because that combination can be alienating from all three angles. And, for as mainstream as much of the Eleventyseven sound is, the band is a bit of an anomaly. Should any of those adjectives — Christian, pop or punk — be a turn off, give the EP a listen anyway. It’s certainly a love it or hate it venture. Pop usually is. But fans of indie pop and ‘80s music and likely to enjoy it. There’s nothing overly religious to the album, though listeners in search of something positive and clean that still has an edge and a sense of fun … well, all of that can be found in Quota.
Want to buy the album? Go here.