Pillar Point: Glossy, Gogol-esque Dance Pop

Pillar Point, Pillar Point (out now, Polyvinyl Records, pillarpointmusic.com)

Literary scholars often use the phrase “laughter through tears” to describe the work of 19th-century Russian author Nikolai Gogol, a master of satire who wrote surreal stories about people’s noses running away from their faces and strange men collecting the spirits of dead serfs by going door-to-door and convincing landowners of the tax benefits of his soul-reaping. The stories are funny, but undergirding them is a distinct sadness—a critique of the fallacies of Russia’s ailing social structure dressed up in fun. Pillar Point’s Scott Reitherman is no stranger to Russian literature; his biggest hit to date, “Lolita,” from his previous band Throw Me the Statue, references Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial masterpiece. Nabokov, who once called Gogol “the greatest artist that Russia has yet produced,” might also dig Reitherman if he were alive to hear his work. On the surface, Pillar Point is a glossy, fun dance record full of the kind of pitched-up 8-bit synths that propelled Passion Pit to stardom. But underneath all the fun pop structures are plenty of tears. “My parents got divorced,” Reitherman told me last October. “I also had a separation with my girlfriend. Most of the songs deal with that, and the project was kind of born out of that . . . I hope it makes people shake their butts, for sure, and work something out emotionally at the same time.”  Teary-eyed butt-shaking is what makes the LP so interesting. On album standout “Black Hole,” a fun rim-click drumbeat rides Zelda-esque video-game bleeps while Reitherman laments, “Baby’s got a black hole between the eyes/And for a little I can’t tell she’s crying.” While Reitherman may have embraced electronics on this album, inherent in the sonic shift from Throw Me the Statue is a subversive critique of digital culture. On “Curious of You,” he coos, “Let it all fall to pieces/When you’re hugging a cell phone/Limp on the bathroom floor” as one of his trademark chintzy Casio beats clatters along underneath ebullient synth chords. Pillar Point’s tension between the dancing and the crying makes for some clever cognitive dissonance—elevating what would otherwise be a straightforward electro-pop record to something much more compelling. (March 5, Vermillion)

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