In the eight years between Catching up to the Future and Fonda’s new EP, Better Days, the band’s principal songwriting duo, Emily Cook and David Klotz, have devoted their energies to some truly questionable projects: Cook contributed to the screenplay of the execrable Gnomeo & Juliet, while Klotz is the music editor for the ongoing pop-culture nightmare that is Glee. Egregious and eyebrow-raising though those credits may be, Cook and Klotz’s work here is characterized by relatively good taste. Thanks to their dead-on instincts for engaging melodies and their heavy My Bloody Valentine influences, Better Days is a focused set of lush, dreamy pop.
The massive power chords and thundering percussion line of the title track open the EP on something of a Coldplay note, but a heavily distorted lead guitar line quickly kicks in and the song’s melody takes a minor-key turn, recasting the song as an effective and on-point homage to early-‘90s shoegaze. Cook and Klotz sing lead in unison on “A Love That Won’t Let You Go,” and they use off-kilter, slightly discordant harmonies to bring a real sense of tension to the track. While that approach to arrangements might not be novel (Fonda is hardly the first act to draw heavily from the Jesus and Mary Chain), it’s something they make effective use of over the course of Better Days, allowing their deliberate aesthetic choices to play as big a role as their lyrics and performances in creating the EP’s tone.
To that end, Fonda absolutely makes the most of Better Days‘s scant running time. Even with the new track, “Some Things Aren’t Worth Knowing,” added to the set for this new rerelease, the EP doesn’t even scratch a full 20 minutes. None of the songs ever threaten to overstay their welcome (“In the Coach Station Light” is an unabashedly lovely two minutes), and there’s something to be said for the degree of precision Fonda brings to their songwriting, especially on the riotous, punk-inflected standout “My Heart Is Dancing.” That said, even in a market that’s increasingly singles-driven, the sheer brevity of Better Days casts the EP as more of a teaser for a bigger project than as a standalone release.