Album Review: Eichlers – ‘My Checkered Future’

Posted: by The Editor

Maximalism is by definition the rejection of the concept that in order for something to be beautiful, it needs to be concise and immediately easy to digest. Artistically, it exists at the polar opposite of the minimalist movement that had, and maybe still has, the world by the neck. DIY  is no stranger to the chokehold of minimalism – acts like Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker are indie sweethearts and Grammy flirtations because of their beautiful and sparse musical arrangements. Nothing is there that doesn’t feel like a necessity to the natural ebb and flow of their songs – every note, sound, and thought are painstakingly accounted for. There’s a new wave of DIY bands coming up that wholeheartedly reject that idea and have clung to the chaos and catharsis of hyperpop stars like Charli XCX and Slayyyter. Eichlers is one of the brightest stars of this new crop; borrowing from the worlds of hip hop, hyperpop, and SKA on their new album, My Checkered Future, to carve out a lane of their own and presenting listeners with two very clear options: you can either pickitup or you can bounce. 

Staying true to form for hyperpop, Eichlers knows how to stay busy. 2021 saw the project release a split with Get Tuff and a handful of singles including the criminally slept on stand-out track, “2 OF US” featuring We Are The Union, and kicked off 2022 with a blistering double single called “New Tone” all before announcing that they had signed with legendary Ska record label, Bad Time Records, to release My Checkered Future. Serving as a quasi-debut album, Eichlers chose to start things off with “Hi (Album Version).”  A tongue-in-cheek nod to their social media presence –each follow and interaction is met with a wholesome hi :)– that starts out feeling a little bit Beach Boys before we’re immediately met with the aforementioned ska and hip hop influence. “Hi (Album Version)” is a perfect summary for what’s to come on the rest of My Checkered Future; breakneck changes in genre and tone that feel cohesive in the fact that they seemed to have shrugged off the need for any real cohesion.

Lead single “Things U C in Me” is a tender moment of introspection and trying to figure out where you stand with other people through the lens of both r&b and ska. That simple and effective hook of “I never see the things you see in me. Why can’t I see the things you see in me?” is silky smooth and soars when juxtaposed with the upstrokes and brass of each verse. It’s a wonderful trade-off that shows the amount of thought that goes into creating these seemingly haphazard songs. These moments of intention are what really tie everything together. 

Standout track “I Need Hep Immediately” takes a similar approach, leaning slightly heavier into the traditional sounds of ska blended with bright chiptune moments akin to Super Mario 64 that successfully create the feelings of tension and unease that are present in the song’s lyrical content. Eichlers trade-in the typical sunny disposition they use to make lyrics that speak of dismantling capitalism and learning to become a better ally sneakily digestible, for a true moment of longing as they sing, “Pick apart the past, fill in all the gaps. Fake a smile and laugh. I just can’t relax.” While the track may be lyrically sparse  (those are all of the lyrics), it’s the true mastery of the genre they’ve created that carries us through the track with finesse. 

The moments that burn brightest on this album are the songs with features. Eichlers prides themselves on fostering a sense of community and has said in interviews that they feel that community is really the ethos of ska and punk rock. Four out of ten songs on the album have features and each of them is wildly different from the last. Early on we have “Nickel City” featuring Omnigone, which is bound to be a contender for song of the summer. There’s a rare moment of nostalgia in the lyric “Lonely, low key, I kinda miss the old me, I kinda miss the old scene. I miss the feeling of backyards, house shows, small tours, coming home broke” that cuts through the shimmery, ska-pop production. And then when Omigone comes through, the track morphs into this blustery punk anthem akin to the likes of Rancid’s “Ruby Soho” or The Transplants’ “Diamonds and Guns.”  This is immediately followed up by the album’s second single, “99 Resolutionz” featuring Tape Girl, which has all of the makings of a bonafide fifth-wave hit: brevity, ease, and an instant replay factor. 

The pinnacle of these bright moments is “Buddy Icon” featuring JER of Skatune Network. “Buddy Icon” sees Eichlers slow things down, offering a moment of reflection at the end of a friendship and pondering “What if we traded places? Tripping over each other’s lace. I might never smile again, at least not the way I did when we were friends” before throwing us into the hook of “Heads up, it’s the worst day of my life and this time, I think it’s do or die” and JER’s incredible vocal feature. JER brings so much of the personality that we’ve come to love about Skatune Network to the song with just their presence, and the way that they offer a similar moment of introspection in the face of dealing with the consequences of their actions is appreciated – especially since all of this is done over a beat that you can’t help but subconsciously groove to. 

My Checkered Future comes to a close with the title track. And if “Hi (Album Version)” was an oversight of what was to be expected from the album, “My Checkered Future” is the highlight reel. Huge horns and crashing cymbals bring the track to its raucous start before eventually giving way to glistening synths and a dance beat that pulses down your spine with increasing intensity on each repeated listen. Eichlers’ signature autotuned vocals come in with a call back to their last full-length opener as he sings “I may be cute, but I’m dumb as fuck so please don’t get your hopes up.” They continue with “I’m a whiny, emo, rude boy, loser, and I’ve got a checkered future.” Taking these pejoratives and flipping them on their head to feel like a moment of sarcastic celebration – it’s a declaration of pride that comes from the scene that helped Eichlers feel like they had a second home. My Checkered Future aims to be just that for kids looking for their scene – a beacon of light and a checkered flag waving in the wind.

My Checkered Future is out March 25th on Bad Time Records. 

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Joel Funk |@joelfunkii

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