Lauber knows what listeners look for in a hit dance-pop record.
From the sound of the second Roosevelt album, Young Romance, producer and songwriter Marius Lauber knows what listeners look for in a hit dance-pop record. Like the work made by Joe Goddard of Hot Chip (who is also the head of Lauber’s home label Greco-Roman), his early music as Roosevelt took on beach-side house music with more of a studious, live-band approach. He quickly established a solid personal aesthetic through his singles, and he showcased an impressively broad set of influences in his self-titled debut. With the follow-up, he now aims to share his know-how in pop craft.
Lauber streamlines the dance-music inspirations scattered in the previous album for a more singular sound in Young Romance. A mix of classic house records, ’80s New Wave, and dollar-bin soft rock gets scaled up for big-stage synth-pop, tailored for an off-the-grid party in the desert. The mirage-like house-pop of “Yr Love” sounds reminiscent of Cut Copy during the band’s move to festival audiences; the sturdy backbone of “Lucia” recalls Tame Impala at his most extroverted. It’s not surprising to find Lauber linked up with Ernest Greene, whose Washed Out project took a similar trajectory fleshing out bedroom-bound pop into music made for a crowded stage.
Roosevelt as a moniker takes on a presence of a pop songwriter alias than a house producer in its second record. Lauber figures out his signature pop move: the elongated, skyward chorus, deployed whenever his songs call for an emotional climax. It appears often throughout the album as he constantly yearns to close the distance in a relationship. Though the trick starts to wear out after a few times of use, it reliably makes a statement especially as it rises out of the barren, open-road production. “Illusion” sets up the most epic example with its titular rhyme raised in emotion by the cosmic synth melody.
Though the emotional highs sound rewarding no matter how broad the lyrics, the anonymity of Roosevelt bogs down the seemingly personal side of the album. Lauber leans into the melancholy in “Yr Love” with its dusky, wistful synths precisely setting the mood. He sets up the general situation with him no longer have a body to hold close, yet the song lacks the specifics to grasp it any deeper than a blanket mood of sadness. “Shadow” rings equally shallow as its titular metaphor with his chorus about a phantom touch not quite tied with a tangible relationship.
A loose narrative emerges from Young Romance, featuring a wanderer who recently lost a close lover. “Better Days” blows up the key phrase speckled throughout the memory-obsessed album for a six-minute private-room guitar show. While the languid sound provides a pleasant interlude, Lauber’s omission of more specific details from his treasured past makes the track rings with a faint emptiness. He constantly hints throughout the album that there’s more to his story, but once it seems to unravel into something deeper, his tried-and-true hooks return for him to continue singing a rather undeveloped song. While Lauber may nail the general dance-pop framework, he follows the laid-out guide too faithfully for his second Roosevelt album.