There’s a particular kind of anxiety that comes when you text someone and you see the three dots looking back at you on your screen. When those dots disappear and then reappear, it gets worse. This is a new anxiety, and nobody has really figured out how to properly describe it yet. But that anxiety is where the new Antarctigo Vespucci album, Love In The Time Of E-Mail, lives. Antarctigo Vespucci is the pop-punk super-duo of Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock, two dudes who find themselves confounded by the present-day world more often than not. (They even use the baffled-old-person spelling of “email” in their album title.) And yet they have made a bracing, fun, deeply catchy album about finding yourself caught in unexplored romantic slipstream.
Farren and Rosenstock have been making music together since 2014, when Rosenstock still led the Long Island punk band Bomb The Music Industry! and Farren had only recently split from his Florida punk band Fake Problems. They released an EP in 2014 and an album in 2015, but lately they’ve been busy with their respective solo careers. As artists, both work in the permanently uncool zone of big, sunny pop-punk singalongs, but they’re also pretty different from each other. Farren makes dinky, sticky tunes with the sort of hooks that seem to be making fun of you when they get stuck in your head. Rosenstock, on the other hand, makes big-idea music; his excellent 2018 album POST- is full of punchy punk symphonies about the terrified emptiness of present-day life.
And yet they make sense together. I don’t know how Farren and Rosenstock write songs together, but when they work together as Antarctigo Vespucci, their music is even bigger and catchier than the music they make by their respective selves. In some alternate dimension when rock radio hadn’t been rolling over and playing dead since about 1999, plenty of the songs on Love In The Time Of E-Mail could get serious radio play. They’re loud and brash and propulsive, unashamed of their yelpy shout-along hooks. And that revved-up energy doesn’t stop them from being thoughtful and considerate.
The voice we hear most often on Love In The Time Of E-Mail belongs to Farren. He’s got a great voice for this kind of music, a high-lonesome yip with a sly conversational edge to it — like Ted Leo if he’d been young enough to have at least a few formative Warped Tour experiences. When Rosenstock chimes in, he’s usually doing a relatively burly backing-vocal thing. And when Farren and Rosenstock sing together, they have a way of filling up the entire frame, sounding like a gang even when they’re singing about fragile and isolated feelings.
The two of them play almost every instrument on the album, their infernally bright guitar riffs fighting it out with their even brighter keyboard riffs. The only thing they don’t play is the drums. (Those come from the Gaslight Anthem’s Benny Horowitz, who knows what he’s doing.) They crash and bang with tuneful abandon, making a barreling-ahead form of power-pop that’s more Better Than Ezra than Black Flag.
Love In The Time Of E-Mail isn’t a concept album about the way technology changes relationships, but that’s in there, since technology is just there in the way relationships work now. It’s not hyper-specific to this time. Rosenstock and Farren are both married, so maybe they’re digging up old memories, or maybe they’re imagining what it would be like to be single right now. Or maybe being single right now isn’t that different from being single a few years ago. Come to think of it, they could even be writing about a past era, since we’re more in the time of Instagram DMs or whatever now.
But there are moments on the album that ring deeply true. There’s the way they describe melting down with someone you haven’t even properly met in person yet: “Kimmy, I’m a disaster, and I don’t wanna pretend / That I’m not gonna get more intense when we finally connect.” There’s the way we perform electronic autopsies on old relationships: “I read through all the emails that you sent to me / And again to the ones that I sent back to you.” There’s the tortured and reluctant way we look up exes on Facebook: “I wanted to see you, to see if I still wanted to see you.”
But Love In The Time Of E-Mail is an album more about love than email, and plenty of the songs aren’t especially dependent on the even-more-neurotic ways that we’ve found to interact with each other. Plenty of the neuroses on display in the album are eternal: “When you really know me, and I mean really know me, will you wanna know me anymore?” And even of-the-moment concerns like our corroded political atmosphere, a huge presence on Rosenstock’s POST-, only come up in asides: “I blacked out on Election Day.”
My favorite song on Love In The Time Of E-Mail is “Breathless On DVD,” a song about the way we can have these frozen images of people in our pasts, the way we can think of them as unchained static images. On that song, Farren is singing about a relationship that’s been dead for almost a decade, but he’s still got an almost tactile sense of what was: “Are you still 27 and mad at me, watching Breathless on DVD in the dead of winter, 2009.” That was so long ago that people were still actually watching DVDs. (He doesn’t say whether she was watching the Godard Breathless or the Richard Gere one.) Maybe they didn’t even have the three dots on the phones then; I can’t remember. And yet it still stings. And while you almost certainly don’t have the same images stuck in your head that Farren does, maybe it’ll bring up something that still stings for you, too.
Love In The Time Of E-Mail is out 10/26 via Polyvinyl.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Robyn’s long-awaited dance-pop return Honey.
• Thom Yorke’s score for the movie Suspiria.
• IAN SWEET’s nervous DIY pop attack Crush Crusher.
• Julia Holter’s rich and inward-looking Aviary.
• Miya Folick’s heavy, incisive full-length debut Premonitions.
• Ty Dolla $ign and Jeremih’s full-length team-up MihTy.
• Homeboy Sandman and Edan’s collaborative rap album Humble Pi.
• Mick Jenkins’ semi-abstract rap journey Pieces Of A Man.
• Daughters’ clangy churn You Won’t Get What You Want.
• Oh Pep!’s insidiously catchy I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You…
• Nicholas Krgovich’s lush lounge-popper “Ouch!”.
• Tasha’s nervous DIY debut Alone At Last.
• The Berries’ alt-rock/Americana debut Start All Over Again.
• Ty Segall’s psych-rock covers collection Fudge Sandwich.
• Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s instrumental record IC-01 Hanoi.
• Dean Wareham and Cheval Sombre’s collaborative album Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre.
• Typesetter’s anthemic punk brooder Nothing Blues.
• Styrofoam’s meditative instrumental We Can Never Go Home.
• NAO’s finely curated soul LP Saturn.
• Georgia Anne Muldrow’s spaced-out R&B record Overload.
• Deerhoof’s Shining tribute Deerhoof Plays The Music Of The Shining.
• The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s full-length cover of Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever.
• William Shatner’s Christmas album Shatner Claus.
• The soundtrack to the movie Boy Erased.
• Holy Ghost’s Anxious EP.
• Everwhen’s Summer Singles EP.