Twee grunge seems like an oxymoron, and yet here we are with this record. Feel Something, the second album from The History of Apple Pie, is perky indie (pop) rock. It takes many elements you would expect from indie rock, shoe gaze, and grunge, but adds in sweet vocals, synth, and catchy melodies. This London-based five-piece was started by singer Steph Min and guitarist Jerome Watson, a couple who write all of the songs. The group is rounded out by drummer James Thomas, guitarist Aslam Ghauri, and bassist Joanna Curwood. They’ve been releasing music since 2011 and put their first album, Out of View, out in 2013. And, since you’re obviously wondering, there’s nothing pie-related about the band. You will not learn about apple pie’s origins from this album, but you will find some pop elements that are just as sweet as dessert.
Sure, Feel Something has some edgy bits, but overall it is far more perky than many of Pie’s contemporaries. Steph Min’s vocals are sweet even when she’s giving attitude, she just has a soft and pleasant voice. Her vocal harmonies on “Jamais Vu” are lovely and in excellent contrast to the instrumentals. Synth and keyboard also soften the songs. “Tame” has driving drums, but the keyboard makes the song bouncy. “Keep Wondering” opens with a shoegaze-errific few moments that sound like you’re listening to a fuzzy radio through a wall, but soon gets clear and adds flute-like synth and prominent tambourine that just makes it sweet. There are many percussion instruments featured that you would rarely pick up on in most indie rock: “Puzzles” has maracas, a tambourine pops up on a few tracks, including “Don’t You Wanna Be Mine?”
Despite all the sweet, there is indie rock hiding in there. “Come Undone” opens the album with a strong base line. “Special Girl” sounds like the musical love child of Veruca Salt and Donovan: it’s got distortion, it’s got big guitars, but it’s got this psychedelic synth. Speaking of Veruca Salt, “Don’t You Wanna Be Mine?” sounds like it came straight out of the early ‘90s with its riffs and Min’s seductive chorus. “Jamais Vu,” one of the singles, has big guitars juxtaposed with pretty vocal harmonies. The guitar gets to do some neat stuff on the album; it switches between jangly and powerful on “Jamais Vu,” it gets bouncy yet dark on “Puzzles.” Though Min’s vocals are pretty enough for pop, the way the songs are mixed doesn’t let them stand out the way they would in pop; the mixing lets the guitar and other instruments take precedence in a rock way. Sure, you can hear how pretty her voice is, but you may not be able to make out every word.
This album is a nice mash of pop and indie rock, it has elements of both that blend fairly seamlessly. A lot of bands have been getting nostalgic for grunge lately, but Pie keeps it radio-friendly with those pretty vocals and by keeping the distortion to a minimum. Maybe consider it indie rock for beginners, for those who are gradually expanding their horizons from listening only to Top 40. It’s a catchy, pop-fueled album with some indie rock edge. Prepare for songs like “Puzzles,” “Tame,” and “Jamais Vu” to get stuck in your head.