In a crowded space of sound-alikes, it's important that a new artist or group differentiate themselves, firstly by knowing what that point-of-difference is, then capitalizing on it. In the absence of a clear vision, one can be overtaken by uncertainty over what it is they offer.
Pep Talk is the first EP to come from electronic duo Caroline Shumate and Greg Graves, and in many ways, the title is fitting. Especially on the third track, “Doubt Myself,” do listeners see this aforementioned uncertainty. Although lyrics portray an individual questioning their deficiencies in a search for love, they match Sleeptalkre's struggles with their newness as a group.
The four-song set displays a human element, with lyrics detailing everyday problems against electronic production. In this regard, Sleeptalkre strives for shows of confidence, though not all are accomplished. “Doubt Myself,” which starts off with a slight house undercurrent before giving way to EDM treatments, has one of the better hooks on the EP—“I created an army of insecurities/ all of my worst traits had it out for me”—but the production doesn't allow it to stand alone, with the powerful message drowned out in an incongruous combo of booming sounds and beats. This isn’t helped by the awkward rap that follows the second verse. While it's unfortunate to see positive elements trapped in a song that needed polish, this isn't the only place on the EP with interference.
Dance-pop song “Over and Over” falls into a similar trap, with competing sounds (including infrequent dubstep beats that seem tacked-on) and vocal alterations that prevent the song from thriving. Shumate's vocals do a good job of elevating lyrics that are admittedly unremarkable, particularly at the pre-chorus and chorus (when she shouts “Begin again”). In these two songs, the production is more of a distraction than an asset. But thankfully, the same can't be said of the EP's first half.
Shumate's vocals do a good job of elevating lyrics that are admittedly unremarkable, particularly at the pre-chorus and chorus.
“Fractions,” a song about manipulation and vindication, is by far the highlight on here: an assortment of guitar basslines and brisk beats lend to an addictive energy, while Shumate's vocal delivery is at its best in this space, thanks in part to lyrics more refined than those seen in the other three songs. It also boasts a catchy chorus with a genuinely great hook:
And while you wait for my reaction/ you'll be breakin' down in fractions
While not on equal ground as the lead single, the fast-moving “Muscle Memory” has a lot going for it—especially how the chorus kicks in with momentum (preceded by a build-up of drum and techno beats), and the lyrics that go with it (“Don't need a label on it/ but we both know we're just two broken hearts/ breakin' bits”). Some of the verse lyrics don't flow as well and the vocals decrease at the bridge, again speaking to a need for refinement. But it's a good showing that Sleeptalkre gets the ingredients involved in making an exciting dance-pop song.
Don't expect a diverse selection of electronic-driven songs and you'll find Pep Talk features some pleasing material, if a bit mixed as a complete package. There's certainly room for improvement, but in keeping with the EP's title, this first effort will serve as a good talking point for Sleeptalkre's journey as they harness the positive.
6,540 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars