Dream pop fans got a nice surprise in November: You're Just In Time To Miss Everything, by Early Internet - the new solo act from Dean Stafford, formerly of hit Austin indie band Pompeii. People familiar with Pompeii won't be terribly surprised by the direction of Just In Time, but it still has its own vibe that makes it an easy, if melancholy, listen.
Whereas Pompeii followed pretty closely in the footsteps of noughties groups like Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Eat World, Just In Time sees Stafford moving towards a more 80s-influenced feel. This is evident from its first moments, as the opening track 'Blankets' begins with an electro drum track reminiscent of 'Take On Me,' before lush synthesizers straight from The Cure's 'Disintegration' come in.
Other strong influences include U2 and Chris Isaak, along with a reverb-heavy feel that sounds like something out of Twin Peaks. The overall effect is very vaporwave, although with original tracks rather than samples.
Throughout the brief 27-minute album, themes of loneliness and isolation are constant. These are juxtaposed against observations of the isolation of modern life, and undoubtedly carries some influence from the COVID-19 lockdowns as well.
These ideas are most clearly articulated in the album's standout track 'Clinging To A Dream You Don't Want To Leave', done in collaboration with fellow dream-popper Caroline Loveglow. "Days become collaged, scraps of self you've sabotaged. The ends will justify the means," they croon, and I feel personally attacked. These introspective observations are set against synths seemingly borrowed from U2's 'With Or Without You', which could possibly be a deliberate reference.
Throughout, Stafford's voice is low and often full of regret. He doesn't have the best range but his sincerity shines through. He also seems to be deliberately smoothing out his voice, possibly to get away from comparisons to Ben Gibbard of Death Cab, but it also works well for the overall dreamy feel for the album. Lyrics are mixed low, blending into the soundscape. The result can sometimes make the lyrics difficult to make out, but with particular phrases and moments bubbling to the surface.
There's a strong feeling of repressed anger throughout - almost always submerged; only occasionally lashing out such as wondering how a friend "got to be so goddamned nice." Even the final track, 'I'm Glad You're Happy', has undertones of resentment. The overall feel is of someone barely hanging on, reaching out desperately for companionship, but holding himself back rather than being held back.
According to the album's press release, the message is about the need to accept one's circumstances as they are. The music itself tends to paint a darker picture, of being trapped in bad circumstances, and trying to find a silver lining. It's definitely a mood, and one which a lot of people today are likely going to share.
'You're Just In Time To Miss Everything' won't set the world of dream pop on fire, but it's a solid release which is easy to recommend to fans of the subgenre. Its open embrace of 80s stylings should also have appeal for people in the vaporwave/retrowave space. And if you find yourself alone for the holidays, Just In Time might be just the comfort music you need.