Two pairs of Tennessee-based brothers crank out the jangly power pop, a la the Gin Blossoms, in this fifth full-length. The disc starts strong with bass-driven “Tess”, a churning, pummeling stomper, whose heat is only eased by fluid, almost-falsetto vocals. Mournful “The Quarterback” captures the ebb and flow of small town life, a sweet melancholia wafting around stories of a hobbled football player, a stylish, but isolated young girl. “Knot of Tension” ratchets up the energy mid-album, its clamped and palm muted guitar riff a solid architecture under florid, super-pop melodies. “Microkorg”, named after the keyboard that carries the song’s weight, adds an electro-chill to the Rockwell’s warm, traditional guitar-pop sound. There are eccentric touches—the brass choir in “Ten Years Old Horns”, a long instrumental reverie in “Middle Eight Waltz”—but none of the radiant beauty, the essential individuality of great southern pop songs from Big Star and the dBs. This is straightforward stuff, however enthusiastically played and sung.
// Notes from the Road
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