For a couple of islands with such a tiny human population compared to the number of sheep who live there, New Zealand has a disproportionate amount of musical talent available for export. The Flight of the Conchords, The Naked and Famous and some unknown teenager going by the name of Lorde all call it home - and the country’s independent scene is thriving too. It’s here where Auckland’s Popstrangers have blossomed, ditching their fuzzy pop of old on this third full-length for the kind of 60s psych that’s proved so successful for near-neighbours Tame Impala.
While there’s always a danger for pastiche in using Lennon-esque vocals and subterranean guitar jangles, ‘Fortuna’ gets away with both by offering something a little more contemplative. There’s a definitive vein of melancholia running through the album. ‘Her’ trundles along at a stoner pace, while opener ‘Sandstorms” warped vocals sound introspective with vocalist Joel Flyer digging deep in to his own mind. And, as with many bands from Down Under, Popstrangers marry this glumness with a distinctly summery vibrancy. ‘Fortuna’ is awash with sun-drenched melodies, each track as colourful as the next.
Three albums have taught Popstrangers the value of pop sensibilities too. ‘Country Kills” chorus is as hooky as it gets, with the dismissive lyrics of “Oh my country will kill me now, but whatever” effectively summarising the nonchalant nature of the band and what makes this album so engaging in one. Replicating the 60s psych sound is something that is often tried but rarely successful, yet this Kiwi trio suit these influences that they so obviously wear on their sleeves.