Sure, New Zealand has enjoyed its share of pop boy bands over the past decades, but if there’s been a homegrown Justin Timberlake that has popped out of the pack before now, then sorry, I missed him. Enter then, to fill that void, Brendan Pyper.
The Hamilton 20-something seems to have arrived fully fleshed out for the role with this EP. ‘Up The Anti’ includes five songs of youthful love and relationships that are lyrically generic enough to be embraced by radio, and strong enough to be added to any soul/pop lovers’ playlists.
The consistent quality of production, musicianship and mixing demanded further investigation, and no surprise Pyper has previous recording history, as vocalist with Hamilton band The Latest Fallout. Their 2014 self-titled album was described as lushly produced ‘classic ego pop-punk’ in NZM’s review, and it turns out his former band members helped record these songs at Roundhead Studio with similar attention to instrumental detail.
The track titles well illustrate this debut solo EP’s story; No Strings Attached, Falling For You, Dreaming In Love, Living In Your Head, Impossible, You Call Yourself A Man. Pyper describes them as “… themes of finding yourself, not giving up on your dreams, sexuality, falling in love, unrequited love, witnessing domestic violence, what you want and what you need and don’t need in life, coping with loss/death and pretty much everything else in between.”
Musically it’s a similar story, with little held back from the production to provide plenty of variety and most importantly, engaging dynamics. Pyper has a good smouldering pop voice that becomes great when he pushes it in emphasis or pitch, and all of the songs benefit from bold choruses that allow him to show that strength off. There’s not much to pick between them in that sense but Dreaming In Love stands out as a good example of his emotional and dynamic range, and will make for a great live singalong.
The EP closer, You Call Yourself A Man, addresses male violence towards female partners, its chorus starting, ‘How dare you call yourself a man, when you can only love with the back of your hand?’ This is one that Pyper could have easily got wrong, but to his credit it avoids being overwrought lyrically or emotively, and again finds a good balance between stirring chorus and sung/rapped verses, with a tidy rock guitar solo shown in for good measure.
I remain confused about the spelling in the EP’s title, ‘Up The Anti’, as there is little ‘anti’ in this honest and measured offering – but certainly, he has upped the ante as a recording artist. Similarly, take care with the surname spelling (no ‘e’) when searching out this worthwhile EP on Spotify etc, because Pyper has an inadvertent, similarly buff, Afrikaans nemesis. Our own Brendan (JT) deserves to do well with this.