standards- Fruit Galaxy (Album Review)

March 22, 2024


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Los Angeles based standards has been bringing a warm and fuzzy approach to math rock since 2017 alongside albums that have all had fruit themed titles and artwork.  Where other math rock has been focused on using its technical playing to throw as many ideas at the listener as possible in a short period of time or bridge the technical elements with atmosphere, standards has gone for a more accessible approach.  On album number three, Fruit Galaxy, the band has retained these elements but gone for an even bouncier and fun feel.  Songs fly by with fast paced, intricate playing that are still filled to the brim with melodic hooks, and while some of it does start to blur together over repeat listen I can’t think of too many other albums in this genre that will make you have a smile on your face the entire time.

Guitarist Marcos Mena has worked with several different drummers over the course of standard’s career, but Moises Popa complements his playing style well and you can tell that the two are having a blast writing and performing this material.  Where 2022’s Fruit Town had a few lulls and slower transitions, you don’t really get that on Fruit Galaxy until around the halfway point on the appropriately named “Holiday”.  Up until that point, the instrumentals move at a brisk pace and have a free-flowing feel as the duo moves seamlessly between ideas.  Compared to some of standard’s prior discography the transition between songs is a bit more natural than before, and this might be the best balance of technicality and accessibility that they’ve offered to date.  A song like “Big Bad” is a great example, as it opens with a quick sample before moving into shimmering melodies and hints of chiptune.  By the end there are even some hints of hip-hop and other rhythmic variations that shake things up, and while there’s a lot happening there are also hooks that jump out at you during that initial listen.  Until you reach “Holiday” there isn’t much time to pause, but the tone is both warm and playful as you make your way through which encourages you to return and discover the details you missed before.  “Holiday” is a good way to break up the two halves, as it has a softer and reflective tone that reminds me of the type of song you’d hear on an anime episode where the main characters go to the beach. 

The second half keeps things moving again with plenty of back and forth between the rock and other genre elements that are present in both the guitar playing and drum beats.  There are a lot of neat little touches that stood out to me, whether it’s what sounds like Kirby sucking in air on the opening of “Pixelberry” or the even more laid back and jazzier/lounge vibe of “Wisteria”.  At thirty-two minutes in length, Fruit Galaxy comes in just a bit shorter than the group’s prior two full lengths but it still manages to cram a lot into that period of time and the length makes it more approachable.  Considering the album artwork shows different fruits orbiting in space, it makes sense that the production values are bigger and allow for both the guitar and drums to soar and have more space in the mix than before.  However, while the smaller nuances and incorporation of electronic and other elements into the math rock foundation really grabbed me, I did find that some of the songs tended to blur together and weren’t always easy to tell apart.  Some of the quick samples or other transitions helped with this and given how laid back and fun the album is it was still enjoyable to take in as a whole.

Math rock can have a reputation for being more of a musician’s genre, where those that play music themselves are drawn in by the technical prowess and complexity of what’s on display.  Standards has always been good at challenging that and not only writing music that’s fun and quirky, but that can be enjoyed by listeners who don’t want to know the intricacies of what it took to write it.  They still do fall into some similarly constructed patterns and have room to further shake things up from a song to song basis, but the seamless transitions and fun details make this their best showing to date.  If you’re looking for an album that’ll have you in a joyful mood from start to finish, Fruit Galaxy will certainly fit that.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg