If you've seen the Pop Project live anytime in the last year and a half (and chances are you haven't, as the group remains one of the most underrated bands in Detroit), you've already heard songs off this album. The release of Stars of Stage and Screen was delayed, as the band has been waiting for the merger of its label, Suburban Sprawl Music, with Ann Arbor's Quack!Media. With that union finally complete, the album will finally be available for the masses.
Which is a good thing, because, as great as these songs have sounded live, they sound fantastic recorded. As might be surmised from their moniker, the Pop Project is, indeed, poppy (in the classic '60s sense of the term) — and we're talking the best kind of pop here. Upbeat, incredibly and infectiously melodic, and full of guitar hooks, the group's songs are unabashedly fun but they never fall into the trap of triteness or oversimplification either. In fact, there isn't a bum track here, which is impressive given that the band consists of three different songwriters who each put their individual spins on things.
Part of what holds it all together is the trio's dedication to a common sound; the other is that all three tend to cover similar lyrical territory. Recurring themes are trouble in love, social awkwardness and the sometimes gut-wrenching fact that you can work in a band for years and never "make it" — and that is depressing, considering the source here. But the combination of cleverly written and (dare we say it?) relatable lyrics paired with upbeat hooks is what makes this album work. It might make you smile wistfully into your beer, but you'll never weep into it. —Leah Warshaw
The Pop Project plays every third Friday at Alvin's (5756 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-633-6326) as part of the "Summer of the Most Fun" series. The album will be available Monday, June 16.