Melody drives Peter Hartmann. And Tripping None, the first proper release of Hartmann’s solo project Poppy Patica has no shortage of shimmering, cosmic pop melodies. But while the EP—out today on local label DZ Tapes—might be drenched in bright melodies, there are also experimental pop sensibilities that keep listeners on their toes. “I guess I like to hook people in with a catchy melody,” Hartmann says, “but then, before they get too comfortable, push ’em in the pool!”
That pool includes seven smart psychedelic pop songs that showcase the melodies constantly floating in Hartmann’s head. Recorded intermittently over the past couple of years at Lurch—the home studio of his Bless bandmates Owen Wuerker (also of Big Hush) and Daniel Saperstein (also of Flasher)—Tripping None represents the next evolution for Poppy Patica: abandoning the solo guitar-and-drum-machine-programming of Hartmann’s earlier work for a fleshed-out, full-band sound. Synth sounds courtesy of Wuerker, combined with the big drum sounds of Dan Howard (Swings), add to Hartmann’s dense songwriting on Tripping None, which also features musical contributions from Saperstein, Reddick, Emma Baker (Flasher, Big Hush), and Sophie Meade.
And Hartmann takes full advantage of the musical contributions, expanding the power-pop songwriting sensibilities of his previous releases into full-on psychedelic pop. On “Sink,” he channels the flamboyant spaced-out pop of David Bowie (“Take your protein pills/ And put your purple pants on”), whereas “Last Train” is a more delicate blend of noise-pop and brooding psychedelia.
Hartmann doesn’t consider himself much of a lyricist, but there’s a lot of emotional depth to the songs on Tripping None. “I wrote most of the songs in 2014, during my last year at college and right after graduating,” he says. “Then, and still now to some degree, writing chords and melody is a lot more important to me than lyrics, but that kind of thing is a lot harder to write about.”
“Bystander,” the album’s bright opener, is a kind of rumination on a Hartmann’s political and social awakening, “[spending] a lot of time at school thinking about gentrification and displacement,” both in D.C.—where he grew up—and elsewhere in the world. And “Mystery Meat” is perhaps the most personal of tunes on Tripping None. It’s “about accepting the discomfort and awkwardness of being young, going out, and dancing in public,” Hartmann says. “Or not dancing! It’s about realizing that the fun of being at the beginning of your adult life is not knowing what’s going to happen.”
And that’s kind of the ethos that drove the making of Tripping None: Letting the melodies in his head guide his songwriting into something much larger, with the invaluable help of his friends and collaborators along the way.
Poppy Patica plays a tape release show tonight at Hole in the Sky with Thelma, Shinji, and Twin Studies. 7 p.m., $5-$10.