Couples Counseling fills up the room with intimate bedroom pop.
“Bedroom pop” is a strange genre name. It’s often used to write off releases, as if composing and recording music on a laptop at home is any less of a feat. Other times, it is lazily used to literally describe home-recorded poppy tunes instead of searching for more appropriate adjectives. But then there are the cases when “bedroom pop” isn’t just referring to the production or used as a dismissal; it captures the intimacy, creativity, experimentation and ambiance of the music. Couples Counseling, the solo project of Virginia de las Pozas, fulfills that definition while its name complements that special intimate quality.
In an album released on a limited cassette run on Blood Oath Slumber Party, de las Pozas creates a layered, dreamy world filled with hazy loops, chirping birds, staccato drum beats, choppy vocals and sweet melodies using effects pedals and a SP-404sx sampler. While many of the individual elements seem pretty on paper, when put together, Couples Counseling gives off a sinister glow. “double dream sequence” includes pitched-down samples and chilly bridge, and “peach pits” features Twilight Zone-y whistling effects throughout the song. It’s this sort of toying with atmosphere – plus the airy layering, angelic vocals, peculiar melodies and inclusion of natural samples and snippets of dialogue – that reminds me so much of Julia Holter’s early work. The first minute of “fiftyseven” would fit right in on Holter’s first album Tragedy (more than once, I actually had to check iTunes didn’t goof and switch over to Tragedy as “fiftyseven” started). Like the name suggests, Couples Counseling follows the story of a courtship that turns sour, although the lyrics aren’t always easy to pick out since vocals are used as an equal layer (another quality in common with Holter). In the shy opening song “hope u nevr hear this”, the artist crushes from afar: “I don’t know you, but I feel like I know you” / “Let me get to know you, I’ll show you that I’m the girl for you.” By the middle track, she seems to be growing tired: “You been shaking the fruitless tree / You’ve been eating apples with no seeds.” And the final chapter has some perspective: “We only lasted half an hour”; “I can’t say I had the best intention”; “You were just a pretty package.” Listening to this relationship unfold and fall apart is like a therapy session in itself, and Couples Counseling embraces the kind of intimacy you can only get from bedroom pop. It feels like you’re sitting on the bed next to Virginia de las Pozas as she confides her relationship troubles in you.