“I know you love the holidays. Happy f–kin’ new year,” says a voicemail message opening the second track on Challenger’s new album, Back to Bellevue. It’s a sarcastic prelude to Challenger’s otherwise ingratiating electro-pop, but the song titles on Challenger’s sophomore effort make it clear there’s more to this release than bright synthesizers and frontman John Ross’ often understated vocals: take “How Terrorism Brought Us Back Together,” “Science of a Seizure,” and the title track, for instance.
Ross is Challenger’s sole creative force, though he rounds out the group with other musicians for live performances. (New Yorkers can check out the Back to Bellevue release show May 30 at Union Hall.) Album standouts include “Birthday at Beth Israel,” “Sweater Weather,” and the affecting, acoustic “I Want You to Love Me.” Alternately chiming and thick-sounding synthesizers propel the songs, more than a few of which could’ve run over the end credits of The Breakfast Club had they been around 30 years ago. READ FULL STORY