NYC alt-pop duo Eighty Ninety, the project of brothers Abner (vocals, production) and Harper (guitar, production) James, recently released two new singles from their forthcoming sophomore EP over the past two months - the sunny, acoustic-driven "Happier" and the driving, cinematic "Better As Friends." As one has learned to expect from the fresh, outstanding musical output of this talented duo, both songs are brilliant examples of Eighty Ninety's ability to craft captivating, minimalist pop gems that blend acoustic instruments and electronic sounds in a style they call "808's and telecasters."
The duo has demonstrated their knack for creating infectious pop gems with killer hooks, relateable and heartfelt lyrics throughout their entire music catalog, starting with their 2016 breakthrough single "Three Thirty," which has accumulated more than 17 million streams on Spotify alone, and was featured on their debut EP Elizabeth. Their 2017 single, "Your Favorite Song," caught the attention of Taylor Swift, making its way to her official Spotify playlist, Songs Taylor Loves.
Their latest single "Better as Friends" uses deeply personal lyrics to explore the mixed emotions and feelings one experiences in the pull to stay connected with someone you once loved despite how painful it can be, begging the question, "Can you really be better as friends?" Abner and Harper comment, "It's about the desire to live in the past rather than face the end, and how loving someone can mean wanting the best for them even if that no longer includes you."
The delicate and heartfelt "Happier" is illuminated by the killer fingerstyle guitar riff that opens the track and carries it throughout. Keeping faithful to the spirit of Eighty Ninety's less-is-more, minimalist production style, "Happier" reflects on the challenges that distance presents as one longs to hold on and keep in touch across the miles. "There are so many people we love and miss that we can't be with, and a lot of late night calls to try and bridge that distance," Abner and Harper comment. "We all want the best for the people we love. Sometimes, that means letting each other go. 'Happier' is about wanting to hold on for just a little bit longer."
From a production perspectve, both "Happier" and "Better as Friends" find the duo venturing out of their typical working mode of self-producing their own music. Abner and Harper created the new singles in collaboration with Grammy-nominated producer and friend Gian Stone (Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Halsey, Dua Lipa). From first listen, it's clear that the results are successful and true to the essence of Eighty Ninety. The duo's characteristic sound, intimate storytelling, dreamy vocals and distinctive guitar work continue to shine through in these two dynamic and captivating tracks. "We let the emotional arc of the song, rather than any set of genre conventions, lead us to instruments and sounds," the brothers say of their process.