The Secret Handshake

Few acts among the crowded local mall-pop scene are as sonically promising as The Secret Handshake. Luis Dubuc's songs are bouncy, light, danceable affairs, simple and predictable almost to a fault, and unapologetically influenced by nostalgia for '90s Top 40 pop tunes. His home-production skills are quite impressive too: My Name Up in Lights, Dubuc's sophomore release, was recorded entirely at his Uptown apartment. (Fun fact: Former Ghosthustler frontman Alan Palomo also recorded the vocals for his upcoming VEGA release at Dubuc's makeshift studio.)

But make no mistake: Dubuc makes music for teenage audiences. As such, the lyrics are simple (and have even been the butt of a diss track of sorts from Fort Worth-based mall-popper PlayRadioPlay!) and the songs have a tendency to lean toward the irritatingly bubblegummy. (Credit the latter to the 24-year-old Dubuc's impending nuptials.) Still, the poppy electronic flourishes that garnish the album hint at an artist who boasts a record collection far broader than the typical Hot Topic shopper's. The album's best cut, "What's Wrong," finds Dubuc's hook rooted in '80s dance pop backed by a synth horn section that recalls the poppiness of late-'70s rhythm and blues.

For the most part, though, Dubuc is knowingly preaching to his choir: "TGIF" is a catchy, pop culture-obsessed ode to the family-friendly programs that littered the primetime TV landscape of the '90s. It works wonders, given the aim here, but this isn't yet the breakout Dubuc has in him.

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