James Brooks, formerly of Minneapolis duo Elite Gymnastics, now under the moniker Default Genders, released a new record Monday—his first proper album since 2011’s Elite Gymnastics release Ruin. The new album, titled Magical Pessimism 2014, includes eight new tracks as well as remastered versions of the four tracks from 2013’s Stop Pretending EP. The album is available for streaming and purchase via Bandcamp.
Elite Gymnastics became a national chillwave sensation when they won attention from Pitchfork and other influential publications in summer 2010, but incited local controversy the following year when Brooks told Pitchfork “there isn’t a scene” in Minneapolis: “As far as we’re concerned, our musical home is the Internet.” Bandmate Josh Clancy left Elite Gymnastics under less-than-amicable circumstances the following year, and Brooks moved to New York.
Last year, Brooks came under fire when he named his new project Dead Girlfriends; some accused his single “On Fraternity” of mansplaining rape culture to women. That controversy, combined with the fact that there was already a band called Dead Girlfriends, prompted Brooks to change his band name again, this time to Default Genders.
Perhaps it’s all that recent attention that made Brooks more comfortable in the spotlight. On Magical Pessimism 2014, the production is cleaner than ever and his earnest vocals and lyrics are finally at the forefront. While his sound still occupies the realm of noisy, hazy, bedroom pop, the bedroom in question now feels less like a hideout and more like a haven. This record is pure teenage music, full of angst and longing but too honest not to be taken seriously.
Nina Slesinger is a student at Macalester College.