hey willpower: P.D.A.

hey willpower’s debut, Dance EP, was one of my favorite eMusic downloads of 2007. Imperial Teen guitarist Will Schwartz and musical partner Tomo channel a sincere love for radio pop into four songs devoid of hipster irony. These guys really do love their Rhianna.

P.D.A. was released in the UK in 2006, but it saw a stateside release in 2008. All four tracks of Dance EP appear on the album, which is handy since the EP itself doesn’t seem to be available in stores any more.

P.D.A. is perhaps the first album in a long time to make me smile.

Schwartz and Tomo refract the mechanized beats and slick harmonies of R&B through their own indie perspective, coming across like a band from a foreign country mishearing American rock music to create something both new and familiar.

Schwartz is no over-emotive American Idol finalist, but he gives that excessively melismatic style his best shot. He puts on his best seductive voice on such down and dirty tracks as "Double Fantasy II" and "Too Hot". On "Uh Uh Uh", he switches from swagger to suave, while the multi-layered "Not Trippin’" has all the call-and-answer you expect from a Janet Jackson track.

Tomo and Schwartz don’t try to horn in on the territory scoped out by Timbaland, the Neptunes or Kanye West. They comandeer the beats and the buzzsaw timbres of R&B, but a vintage ’80s post-punk vibe threads itself through all the synthetic goodness. If anything, the music is refreshingly uncluttered, perhaps even sparse compared to the crush of samples on most commercial pop.

It’s all too easy to imagine many, many more samples weighing down "Too Hot", "Silent Ring" and "Retail Therapy". Tomo and Schwartz resist the urge.

All throughout the album, the pair never sound like they’re mocking radio pop. If anything, they’re absolutely earnest about emulating it. hey willpower sees value where most hipsters would find crassness, and by taking pop very seriously, they show seriousness is really not the point.

Stripped of commercial calculation, P.D.A. is all about fun.

The album manages to find heart in a style of music often accused of being fabricated, at the same time humbling the more rockist tendencies of indie music. Radio pop could look to hey willpower to sound a little less polished, while indie rock could follow the band’s example and be a little less lofty.