Barcelona , The Melodrama EP Collection (1/21, self-released, This local indie-rock


, The Melodrama EP Collection (1/21, self-released,

This local indie-rock act last made waves in 2008, when the band of former Seattle Pacific University students signed with Universal Records and released Absolutes. But for this release—a series of three EPs set to be released over the next three months—the trio worked completely free of any input from outside producers, engineers, and record labels, ditching its piano- and harmony-driven alt-rock roots for a more electronic-influenced R&B pop sound. Led by the single “Background,” the Love Me EP (Jan. 21) begins the series with five upbeat, ’80s-inspired tracks that use punchy guitar riffs and pulsing synth to pay homage to the likes of Prince and The Police. The second installment, Love You, slows the momentum and focuses more on silky R&B vocals a la James Blake and Justin Timberlake. Where the first EP proves a sparkly, love-drunk collection of old-school prom-pop ballads, the second pairs poignant R&B hooks and muted electronic fuzz for maximum emotional effect (think The Weeknd’s creamy falsetto and muted beats, minus the rapey drug references). It’s on songs like “Diamond and Silver” and “Strange Way” that the band’s new direction is fully realized: a fast-paced mixture of anthemic pop and raw emotion that’s comparable to the output of English rockers Keane on releases Under the Iron Sea and Perfect Symmetry. Barcelona concludes the series with Know Love, a seamless continuation that combines Love Me’s bubbly sugar shock and Love You’s dreamy pillow talk for a collection both dark and daring. In its entirety, The Melodrama is a comprehensive exploration of what it means to love and be loved, brought to life by synthy arrangements, catchy pop storytelling, and romantic slow jams. The band’s evolution as presented through these new tunes could prove its riskiest, and most exciting, triumph yet. (Barcelona will release Love You and Know Love on February 18 and March 18, respectively; each will be released digitally, with limited editions available on vinyl.)