July 28th, 2018 | Album reviews

Counter Culture / Cosmica

Imagine the county fair, buzzing on a Friday night: vivid colors, glittering lights, and couples smiling and walking hand-in-hand. Laid-back love is in the air, and if you could turn down the noises of reality—like oldies music and snorting farm animals—you’d have Katzù Oso’s debut EP Pastel, a sugar-coated synth-pop project that effortlessly captures this classic kind of romance. This doesn’t mean the Montebello bedroom pop producer—real name Paul Hernandez—is all naïvete and optimism, however. It’s true that among his circle of young self-starting L.A.-raised musicians, Hernandez has developed an artistic persona that’s unabashedly romantic. On “Cherry Love” and “Give It Up to You,” he’s a sweet-talking character whose lyrics are the icing on top of his synth-driven and sometimes 80s-esque music, and the lyrics to “Rose” are just dripping with desire: “What’s it gonna take, girl, for you to fall in love with me / Just kiss me longer, don’t want this to end / ‘Cause after all you were my best friend.” But Oso isn’t afraid to explore heartbreak either: “Honeydew” is the story of a bitter romantic disconnect, while “Crazy4LuvinU” is candidly depressive as the narrator doubts his sanity for sticking with a dysfunctional relationship. This double-sided quality of Pastel—an engaging pop record split between the ecstasy and anguish of love —makes it ready for plenty of replay. But it’s Hernandez’s clarity of emotion that gives his debut its addictive charm—something that will appeal to fans of Cuco and the like. It feels fuzzy and intimate even at its most tragic, thanks to consistently bubbly production and poetic lyrics in both English and Spanish. (See “Pastel” and “Coqueta.”) Pastel has its moments of darkness, but it’s a bright beginning for this boy from Montebello.

Sydney Sweeney