There has always been something sort of funny about Hypoluxo’s music—not the melodies themselves, but the tone of each song, both what’s being said and how. It’s more clever, more coy—the sort of humor that might elicit a smirk between sips of coffee or provoke a puff of laughter in an inappropriate moment.
Take their most recent EP Taste Buds, which builds on their 2016 debut If Language by peeling layers away. Gone are those saturating chords, the melodies that seep through the fabric of each song, bleeding into singer Samuel Cogen’s dark, cavernous voice; instead, Taste Buds feels more like a road trip through the desert, all dry heat and adrenaline. Indeed, the guitars have dried up on songs like “Sometimes,” but feel more firm beneath the listener’s feet; here, the drums sound distant and dusty, and the animated bass kicks more rhythmically than before. Cogen’s baritone snaps to the forefront here and on the trotting “Nevada,” his voice now guiding the song instead of swirling in its bleary din. The outcome is unmistakably Hypoluxo, but odd—like an identical twin that seems just different enough.
But may be literal humor on Taste Buds too—perhaps in Cogen’s lyrics. On “Nevada,” for example, he sings, “It was a long way / What can I say? / ‘Cause you took us to the wrong place / You don’t know what to do / You lost the map tying your shoe / And it’s a problem,” before repeating, “Nothing’s crazy about Nevada” during a tumbleweed chorus, its instruments like animals bawling at dusk. In fact, it’s difficult to tell if Cogen’s deadpan poetry is meant to be comical—if the line “I’ll bark back if you say that,” in “Dog Park” is meant to be punny; if we’re meant to roll our eyes at the speaker in “Cowboy Poet,” disappointed by a former friend who left the poetry and tall buildings and dry martinis of the city to be a tobacco-chewing cowboy, who says “You let your city down,” but later says, “I can see you wanting more out of your own life, and that seems fair.”
Of course, part of what makes Hypoluxo feel so funny is the juxtaposition of all these elements—Cogen’s soft-spoken bellow and the ludicrous cynicism of his lyrics; the jangle and glint of the guitars beneath, not so noisy as to bury him; the rhythms poking and provoking the song, providing momentum, kicking it along. It makes Hypoluxo’s music difficult to define; too conscious to be dream pop, too silly to be indie rock, too playful to be punk, and too anachronistic to earn the prefix post-, “sort of funny” simply seems like the best fit.