Perhaps it is unfair to contrast the second album by California’s the Faraway Places against the sorely missed Boston trio Papas Fritas simply because Chris Colthart and Donna Coppola, two-fifths of the former, once toured as part of the latter before establishing their current band. Yet the comparison feels wholly apt, not simply because of the earlier connection, but because both bands occupy a similar corner of retro-obsessed indie rock focused primarily on the ‘70s. Just as Papas Fritas, at least around the time that Colthart and Coppola hopped on board to tour behind the band’s final full-length Buildings and Grounds (2000), suggested something akin to a twee variation on Fleetwood Mac commercial height, the Faraway Places’ locates its inspiration all across the ‘70s radio dial in their meld of glam, AOR-rock and power-pop. The result is that the Faraway Places have a somewhat distinctly harder edge than the earlier band, but where Papas Fritas (particularly on their should-be-classic 1997 release Helioself) deftly filtered their influences through their own songwriting idiosyncrasies in manner that always reflected the uniqueness of the individual players, the Faraway Places do little more than wear theirs on their sleeves. The end product is something closer to an indie variant on the recent Tinted Windows debacle, a collection of retro poses and flourishes that, no matter how competently performed, feel self-consciously recycled and derivative even when the pedigree of the performers would suggest otherwise.
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