The work of Brooklyn band Populuxe has always been a study in genre adaptation. Whether they’re exploring oft-tread pop landscapes or delving into something a bit more rock-oriented, their music is always in a state of continual evolution, with each song acting as its own interpretation of some cherished influence. But far from feeling disjointed, this approach allows their songs to develop their own individual physiognomies, creating a series of impressionistic musical atmospheres where mood and tone constantly transform alongside complicated narratives and intricate emotional resonances.
The band’s new record, “Lumiere,” continues these themes of rhythmic variation and disregard for genre constraints. And they seem to be having a good deal of fun while working through these sounds, building a considerable complexity in terms of how each song relates to one another. There’s a sense of history here, with the band wading through a laundry list of influences ranging from David Bowie to XTC to Big Star. From the glam-inspired opener “Lady Liberty” to the ‘80s art-pop of closer “Who’s Laughing Now,” the band doesn’t linger in one aesthetic for love, opting instead to investigate as wide a range of sounds as they possibly can while they have your attention.
Andy Partridge would be proud of the warped pop echoes of “Garage Sale” while the ‘70s folk-rock vibes of “Schoolyard” feel authentic and cleverly arranged. And even when they draw from such disparate musical lineages, the overall arch of the record is one of melodic coherence and harmony. Led by band architect Rob Shapiro, Populuxe -- including drummer-percussionist Mark Pardy and bassist Mike Mallory and a collection of auxiliary musicians -- effortlessly eschews tradition and produces a unique and affecting take on a diverse pop-rock sound which spans decades of musical history.
The centerpiece of the record is “How Long’s It Gonna Take?,”a sprawling cosmic rock and jazz jam that borrows liberally from “Bitches Brew”-era Miles Davis and the more celestial tendencies of Pink Floyd. It allows the band to loosen their already tentative hold on convention and explore a truly innovative brew of spastic pop textures and reckless melodicism. Other tracks like the dense alt-rock of “Behind Enemy Lines” and the Todd Rundgren-esque power pop of “Blackout” further cement their position as a band who lays claim to no specific musical perspective and who revel in the spontaneity these particular sounds afford them.
There are countless bands who attempt the impressive feat of corralling dozens of influences into a single cohesive musical statement. The tendency is to cram as much into each song as they can hoping to discover some sense of emotional connectivity during the process. Populuxe is one of the few bands who succeed through their unwavering allegiance to the idea of sound as a constantly changing and adaptive thing. And “Lumiere” is a direct response to that deeply-held conviction.