The Masterminds is a pop-rock band based in New Jersey and led by lead singer and composer Tim English. They recently released In Effect. The band makes poppy songs that are often under three minutes and in many ways are very simple yet enjoyable. I was reminded of the band The Magnetic Fields and their project 69 Love Songs. Similar to that project the songs are short and rely on melodies that are extremely palatable and feel like you’ve heard them before even if it's the first time. You can hum along within seconds.
The songs aren’t particularly ambitious, challenging or thought-provoking but I would argue that’s some of the appeal. Up first is “Shady Lane” which is a bit quirky and arguably the highlight in the batch. The lyrics spell out a nostalgic narrative and I thought the vocal harmonies were delightful. On top of that the synth works really well against the white noise of the guitar.
“Love Squared” mixes a bit of ’50s pop with, well, more pop. It’s extremely catchy and the low octave vocals were money. I promise you that you will tapping along with this song. More ’50s inspired pop seems to run through “Where is Laura?” For some reason I was thinking that if I heard this song while on psychedelics I would be terrified. Everything would seem like plastic and very hollow inside. The vocal harmonies at the end have an Ariel Pink vibe about them.
I have to admit that I was getting more slightly trippy vibes off “Learning How To Love.” Just imagine the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It’s 1970 and you’re chilling by the pool at Circus Circus and this song comes on. “Tarot Cards” has great guitar tone while “Partner In Crime” has a bit of Roy Orbison in there. They close with the Beach Boys-esque “Springtime Girl.”
In Effect is a solid EP that doesn’t require much effort to enjoy. I will admit that for this type of music I have to be in a certain mood. To be perfectly honest I think I would listen to this music when I’m angry to cool my nerves. There is this ’50s vibe that makes me think of nuclear families, sitcoms and frozen dinners. Almost like an artificial happiness.
Overall, this is a pretty unique collection of songs. It’s highly enjoyable in its own off-kilter way.
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