Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Album: Pants Yell! - Received Pronunciation

Received Pronunciation (Pants Yell!)
Album: Received Pronunciation
Slumberland, 2009
Rating: ******* (7/10)

After a slew of really disappointing albums, it was nice to finally come across one that exceeded my expectations. Of course, it helped that my expectations were fairly low - I have tried to get into Boston-based indie poppers Pants Yell! a number of times and have always ended up bored and confused. I'd heard good things about the band but never managed to find a worthwhile melody among their songs.

But on Received Pronunciation, you'd have to try pretty hard to find even a minute without a strong melody. This is unmistakably what indie pop should be, sweet and understated, but catchy, youthful and fun. There's nothing edgy here, not even the seamless distortion of their labelmates, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart - in fact, there's no distortion at all. Sure, that means this album isn't really my thing, but it succeeds in what it sets out to do. Andrew Churchman's voice is clear and in-tune but unextravagant, in the best of indie-boy tradition.

My main complaint about the album has to do with the lyrics, which should be a clue that I don't have any big complaints - lyrics, as long as they aren't unbearable, are pretty irrelevant to my enjoyment of music. But with such clear, out-front vocals, it would be nice if Churchman would just tell us what he's talking about. His songs seem like straightforward stories, but stories I couldn't quite follow, and I was left wondering if certain lines were related to one another or just happened to rhyme. On the other hand, he addresses one very empathetic song to a spider ("Spider"), so it's not all bad!

I wouldn't call this music twee, though a lot of people want to. It's just not that young or playful. It's mostly about liking girls who have boyfriends who are assholes, but not about kittens, rainbows and cupcakes. It may be young and innocent, but it doesn't play at being childish. And that's a good thing.

This ain't the album of the year, but for people who like lovely little restrained pop songs, it's a small treasure-chest without a bad song in the bunch.


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