Peace can be found on aimless summer drives in an overcrowded car. The A/C broke long ago, but with no cash to fix it, the breeze rushing in through the hand-cranked windows offers the only respite from the sweltering heat. A buddy in the back takes sips a bottle of Mexican Coke that’s perspiring as much as anyone in the vehicle. A pair of bare feet hangs casually crossed outside the back window while an arm juts out from the passenger’s side, smoothly ascending and descending in a wavy pattern that cuts through the oncoming wind. Someone throws Iji’s Whatever Will Happen on the stereo, because that’s the ideal jazzy pop rock soundtrack for this moment.
It’s hard to escape the seasonal pull of summer when dissecting the latest album from Iji. Bandleader Zach Burba brings a sunny-demeanor-in-a-heat-wave vibe to a collection of songs clearly forged during extensive hours on the roads connecting one stop on tour to the next. While Iji’s discography boasts twelve records, Whatever Will Happen—the band’s June debut on Team Love Records—serves as the Burba’s first step out the purely DIY world.
Whatever Will Happen throws together a collection of pop notes from bygone decades with unrelenting sincerity and melodicism. From the palpitating bass groove “Cruisin USA” to the light and breezy rhythm guitar tone to the sultry saxophone solo on “Hard 2 Wait,” everything feels naturally in its element. Iji’s expertly employs horns to color the record, and—when coupled with some of the topical-leaning rhythms—it calls to mind Paul Simon’s ‘80s pop heyday. Elements like the Talking Heads-esque angular implementation of background vocals evoke new wave sensibility. But the way the band blends everything makes for an album that feels distinctly its own rather than a patchwork collection of influences.
Burba ties together the musical pieces with his soft voice that stays at a level that’s a touch of inflection above talk-singing. Whether he’s cooing about playing for free taquitos, long road trips, or the glut of songs in existence, he conveys a warm confidence. There’s no doubt that he means it when he repeats, “I’ve got your back / I’ve got your back / I’ve got your back,” on “Bound 2 Glory.” Everything isn’t perfect, but life’s pretty alright, so there’s not need to fret. We’ll figure it out. Hop in the backseat. Let’s go for a ride.