After listening the new Fantasy Guys album for the first time, I could only think of one thing: damn I wish I owned a pool. It’s not that I’m not content to be sitting at my desk, headphones on, sorting through my notes and thoughts about the album. It’s just that it occurs to me how this music is perfect for certain contexts. Here is a non-exhaustive list of situations for which the new record is an ideal soundtrack: floating around a pool, swinging in a hammock, driving the A1A with the windows down, smoking weed on the beach, playing Donkey Kong Country, grilling hamburgers. You get the idea.
Fantasy Guys’ Inyo Galatea, Maddy Davis, and Mitchell Hardage really just want you to relax and have a good time. Following last year’s Surfin on a Wave of Juice and the follow-up instrumental EP, Dreamin’ of the Sea, On Poppy Island arrives just in time for the summer, and with it they have harnessed the power of sun and Sega.
The LP is a shimmering mix of cheeky island pop, R&B-inflected loungers, and chill video game vibes. Across 13 tracks they expertly mesh keyboard beats, sunny guitars, and ethereal falsetto vocals with jazzy flute, funky bass licks, and vibraphone and synth textures. And despite that reverse engineered list of sounds, the result is greater than the sum of its parts; it’s a unique and cohesive record that is quite unlike any other music being made in Atlanta right now.
To the uninitiated, it would be easy to dismiss Fantasy Guys as comedy or satire at first listen. With an album cover that looks akin to an SNES title screen, and songs with emoji-culture titles such as “Bae Caught Me Vapin’,” “420 Tho,” and “Aloha BB Girl,” you can practically see the band members winking at you as you consider whether or not to dive in. But there is an earnestness in their meticulous craft. The laid-back vibes and playful accessibility of the music somewhat mask just how precise the album is in its construction — never quite basic, but also never full-on proggy or complicated. That is a fine line to walk, and Fantasy Guys walk it deftly.
On Poppy Island is bursting with sun and sand, and manages to showcase a little bit of everything. There’s an intro track. There are pun-y song titles. There are flute solos. There are upbeat songs and slow songs. There are instrumentals that sound like the beach courses in Mario Kart. But the true testament to the album’s utility and creativity is that you really want to listen to it over and over in spite of its mostly subtle cheekiness. Whereas you might hear “Jazz” by Tenacious D, laugh heartily, but never really need to hear it again, with Fantasy Guys you get music that is fun but also has a shelf life. This isn’t the Lonely Island’s “I Just Had Sex” or Weird Al style parody, this is an honest, earnest, fun exercise in genre where the players are genuinely committed to what they’re creating, even if they can’t perform without acknowledging the weed session joke that led to the band’s creation.
I asked the group where Poppy Island is and if it’s a real place. Their answer was succinct, and a perfect indicator of exactly what you’re getting into with this record. “Poppy Island is everywhere you want to be,” they tell me. “It is the sweet cosmic Pangaea of each of your happy places.”
Fantasy Guys live in the sweet spot, and they want you to come chill with them. On Poppy Island is the soundtrack, and it’s on repeat. Come on in, the water’s fine.
On Poppy Island is out tomorrow, June 18.
Fantasy Guys will celebrate the release of On Poppy Island with a free party (and free beer!) tomorrow night, June 18, on the roof of the Secret Spot. Party starts at 8:30 p.m. with the performance kicking off at 10 p.m. sharp. $2 donation suggested.