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Oskar Schroeder, 'Way Too Long'

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Oskar Schroeder, Way Too Long
  • Oskar Schroeder, Way Too Long

(Self-released, digital)

Where are all of these young, gifted alt-pop singer-songwriters coming from? Last week, we introduced you to R&B upstart Will Keeper. Behind the scenes, that led to the discovery of his collaborator Oskar Schroeder. I tried to come up with some kind of equivalency from nature, such as: If you see one ant in your kitchen there are surely a thousand more just out of sight. But, unlike how I felt about the colony of arthropods I just eliminated from my apartment, I hope this cluster of Gen Z creators continues to grow.

Schroeder, a 25-year-old graduate of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont., just released his first EP, Way Too Long. While living in Canada, he played with rock groups Meadowlands and lovegood, both of which sound quite different from the artist's solo debut. Schroeder's independent work cruises away from sprawling psychedelic rock and into highly stylized, trip-hop-adjacent synth-pop.

Way Too Long is actually way too short, a commonality many local burgeoning pop stars share on their debuts. But the four-track EP sufficiently submerges the listener in a cool, aqueous space. Schroeder's world is one of silken moods and prismatic structures within which he can safely process everything from anxiety to indifference.

While listening for the first time, I couldn't help but reimagine Schroeder's work as screaming, early '00s-style pop-punk — which is weird for me because I don't listen to a ton of that kind of stuff. But something about his emotive, almost strangled delivery made me want to extract his voice and patch it into a new track with a shitload of ripping guitars and live drums.

It's not that his vocal style doesn't jibe with his slinky concoctions of glistening synths, molten pianos and wet-from-reverb beats. It does. But the ineffable way he fashions his hooks — particularly the grand conceit of "I Stopped Trying!" which dramatically emphasizes the words "And I can't take it back this time" — lends itself to a stylistic shift into emo or thereabouts.

Opener "Somewhere Else" establishes an iced-out mood that appears throughout, its beats flip-flopping from straight to swung as the hook arrives. Schroeder plays his keys majestically, seamlessly bridging the gap into "I Stopped Trying!"

"Shake It" ratchets up tension with pulsing beats and synths, but Schroeder's vocals are groggy. The elements subtly clash, underscoring the uncertainty of the song's lyrics.

Closer "Five Years" introduces '80s bell synth, a nod to the decade that likely inspired some of Schroeder's compositions.

Schroeder tapped Keeper to produce his next album. Given what they've accomplished on their respective debuts, that partnership can only lead to good things.

Stream Way Too Long on Spotify.