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Boy Pablo’s ‘Soy Pablo’ fails to define identity

| Friday, October 26, 2018

Diane Park | The Observer

The mere title of boy pablo’s sophomore release, “Soy Pablo,” illustrates more about the Norwegian pop band than does the record itself. The title, Spanish for “I am Pablo,” is a declaration of identity. In contrast, the seven tracks on “Soy Pablo” sound good but say little; all variations on one marketable “indie” theme. Boy pablo is a talented bunch, but “Soy Pablo” is too safe of an album for any meaningful self-expression.

An enthralling, cascading guitar riff introduces “Feeling Lonely,” the first track on “Soy Pablo,” and returns after the first verse, just as fun as the first time around. But when the riff returns for a third and a fourth time, it loses appeal. Pleasant but diminishing in returns, the riff on “Feeling Lonely” encapsulates the record as a whole. Between this instrumentation are lyrics that even boy pablo confesses are lackluster. “I miss you so bad / the thought of you makes me sad / I’m going mad” band frontman Pablo Muñoz sings. And then, in a hushed voice, “No I’m not.” Self-deprecating humor is amusing, but it doesn’t exempt boy pablo’s songwriting from criticism.

The superficial amusement continues on the record’s third track, “Sick Feeling.” Yet, listeners do get an anticipated second taste of the band’s idiosyncratic, low-budget music videos. In 2017, boy pablo’s video for “Everytime” garnered millions of views from a previously nonexistent fan base. The video shows the band performing alone on a dock, squinting at a camera aligned with the sun. With the “Sick Feeling” video, boy pablo revives this quirky aesthetic; here, Pablo Muñoz lip syncs “Sick Feeling” while strumming a Guitar Hero controller. The new video isn’t quite so innovative as the original, but it’s endearing nevertheless.

The album’s loose narrative on unrequited love ends with “Losing You” and “tkm.” In “Losing You,” Muñoz sings with some assurance, “‘Cause I feel like I’m losing you / Oh how can that be true? / I know you want me too.” In “tkm,” Muñoz backtracks, ending the album with the line, “Let me know / Oh, do you feel the same?” The more the album’s protagonist dwells upon his love interest, the less confident he becomes. It’s a thoughtful non-ending, but there’s not enough emotional groundwork to make “tkm” a touching moment — the only thing listeners know about the love interest in question is that the thought of him or her makes Pablo sad (but not quite mad).

“Soy Pablo” covers all the bases of a bedroom pop record. Its songs are catchy and straightforward. Its lyrics focus on typical teenage experiences. Its production is just fuzzy enough to sound homemade. The record deftly associates itself with a certain feeling, but it never sets itself apart. There’s no depth to “Soy Pablo,” nothing in the way of self-examination or self-expression. It’s an anonymous EP, a surprise considering the record’s name: “Soy Pablo.”

Artist: boy pablo

Album: “Soy Pablo”

Label: 777 Records

Favorite Tracks: “Feeling Lonely,” “Sick Feeling,” “t-shirt”

If you like: Mac DeMarco, Rex Orange County, Clairo

Shamrocks: 2.5 out of 5

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