Kissing by The Great American Novel (Brooklyn, New York)
Self-aware and pleasingly reverent, The Great American Novel’s Kissing is an inviting collection of radio-friendly pop jams that won’t insult your intelligence. This album seems to have been recorded with the credo “let’s make fun music and let’s have fun doing it.” The result is a thing of effortless delight: rollicking, cooing pop-punk revival with comfortable doses of boozy literacy. An agnostic confidant in a world of increasingly exclusive musical cliques.
The Great American Novel don’t aim to impress with guitar sophistry or slick sarcasm, opting instead to craft joyful little collages of early 2000s radio rock. We’re talking about breathy little songs with plenty of room for movement and enough displays of musical acuity to be taken seriously. Most tracks have a subtle water quality to them, a Real Estate-y lilt which serves as sole reminder that these guys are from Brooklyn and it is 2013.
Kissing attempts a cocktail of influences ranging from doo-wop to post-punk revival, and at times the disparate genres don’t necessarily collude. But the album does have a flow, and the songs do come together into the same angsty space. The wintry tilt-along of ‘All the Sad Young Literary Men‘ and ‘Raymond Carver’s‘ southwestern swagger don’t seem like they would be particularly interested in cohabitation, but the ache exhibited in each is consistent and the songwriting consistently enjoyable.
‘You’re Probably Good at Kissing‘ is this album’s phenomenal epicenter; a perfect blend of every divergent interest the album indulges. To put it simply: this is a great pop song, and it’s been looping in my head for about a week. The album never quite reaches the heights of ‘Good at Kissing’ a second time, but there is more than enough going on in terms of genre exploration to make the whole thing worthwhile.
‘Loosen Up’ Single by The Ugly Club (Union, New Jersey)
It’s actually been a while since I listened to and enjoyed a 7-inch record, but I think The Ugly Club‘s ‘Loosen Up’ exhibits the kind of re-playable briskness so essential to the medium’s uniqueness. You get everything you ask for with this single: no more and no less. These songs remind me of infinitely tight spandex pants which have a pure and awesome sheerness to them; nothing is exacerbated, nothing overwrought. This is dance-prog at its most direct and its most concise. ‘Loosen Up‘ is a sharp little beast and it struts with metallic certainty, occasionally delving into warm little synth lines that would not be unwelcome on an ELO album.
These two songs get caught up in a lot of that post-Interpol indie brooding, sure, but every instrument seems to sling out little winking references to pre-’90s feel-good riffage; these songs are fun. In fact there’s such a yachty atmosphere of good times and buoyancy that you definitely get the sense that these guys are enjoying themselves, which plays nicely against the otherwise moody songwriting.
‘Loosen Up’ is business casual with a dash of nocturnal excitement; urban fright you can take for a weekend at the beach. Super-catchy chord progressions coupled with dashes of high technique riffing: to be able to say that The Ugly Club sound like a more serious, more sinister Hall and Oates – and to mean it sincerely – gives me great pleasure indeed. @HemlockShaw