If nothing else, Framing Amy has one of the catchiest band names you’ll ever see on a marquee, right up there with the Drop-Kick Chihuahuas, Antigone Rising and Death Cab for Cutie. This Milwaukee-based band has become ubiquitous in the Midwest over the past six years, and Eureka Phenom, with its big guitars and FM radio instrumentation, is a concerted effort on the part of four guys and Amy Pierce herself to break out of that market. Certainly, the plaudits they’ve received—from a pair of Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards to opening slots for bands like Tonic, Third Eye Blind and Sister Hazel—won’t stand in the way of their march to pop-rock stardom. A band that sends out packs of Pop Rocks candy with a tagline like “sounds like eating Pop Rocks and drinking Coke at the same time” deserves at least 15 minutes.
So from my first 15 minutes of Framing Amy, I gathered that the band sounds as pretty as the frontwoman, Lee Lee Sobrieski look-alike Pierce, and as tame as Pop Rocks minus the carbonated fructose. Nothing tops the opening riff to the radio single, “Making Up”—an audio snippet that is, in fact, part of the flash introduction to their web site—and that intense chunk of sound is what this album does best. Concentrated doses of sugary, but good music, like the earthy, semi-acoustic backing of “Because” or the slinky melody of “Desperate”, are this band’s specialty. None of the band members are bad songwriters either. Most of the songs, notably “Making Up”, have that catchy lyrical recursion that most of us secretly crave while we’re driving to work.
The only problem with Framing Amy’s sound is a vocal deficiency that a better CD mastering job might or might not correct. Amy Pierce is not Alanis Morrissette. Nor is she Sarah MacLachlan. Her vocals land her somewhere between Jen Wood and Jewel Kilcher, and if she is Jewel, then she is a watered-down Jewel, all fragility and no singing-out-of-gut vibrancy. I simply don’t hear the Pop Rocks and Coke in her singing. The band, made marketable by a well-calibrated mix of electric guitar and drums and the work of drummer/songwriter Tony Nardone, takes on shades of Toad the Wet Sprocket and slips capably and comfortably into mainstream alt-rock, thus saving this album from the adult-contemporary bin.
Pierce’s voice would be great for a Celtic album. It’s as true as green, and girlish and pure to boot. I’d love to hear her sing on some turmoil-laden, acoustic indie-rock song, like Jen Wood’s “Imperfect” or one of Juliana Hatfield’s quieter pieces. The inanity of pop music doesn’t do her justice.