Little so far is known about Jamie Hoover and his cohort Bill Lloyd. Although they’ve been making music for a while now, it seems that they’ve always been waiting for some label or figurehead to get them out into more of a broader, mainstream market. The album title might even be a hint of where they’d like to be: known instead of still under the radar. The latest album from this duo should take care of that in a hurry, with a mix of Byrdsian pop with later influences such as Tom Petty and Steve Earle. In fact, the opening tune of “Side One” (see, there were once albums, people!) is the gorgeous and lush “Show & Tell the World”. The duo tend to have great harmonies throughout, but the tune hits the ground running thanks to a roots rock format that is tested and true. You’ll get into this early and far too often.
The sweet, sugar-coated pop on the album is its biggest asset, especially on the infectious “Better Left Alone”, which veers close to a summer-style Beatles tune inspired by Brian Wilson and company. Accented thanks to harmonicas and the rare tambourine, the song has that timeless quality without veering too far into the summer driving, Fountains of Wayne style. The thick bass line directing “Screen Time” has that bizarre ‘60s British sound that lives and dies with the melody. “As You Were”, though, becomes far too sappy for its own good, sort of like a b-side romantic tune that rarely gets off the ground. Hoover and Lloyd wear their hearts on their sleeves on the number and it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. They also eerily sound like former Odds front men Steven Drake and Craig Northey. And the rain coming down on the conclusion only adds to the somber tone.
US: 13 Jan 2004
UK: Available as import
Thankfully, they quickly go back to the power pop or pop rock or whatever you want to call it. “The Bucks Stops Here” is aligned heavily to groups like The Gin Blossoms and particularly The BoDeans—a roots tune with a chorus that brings it all together. “The buck stops here bitch”, the line goes before they round out the tune with something of a guitar duel. “I Can’t Take it Back” opens with an acoustic guitar and percussion from Dennis Diken. It’s far too mellow though and would be better left for summer patio or bonfire parties. The second verse picks it up into the chorus, but there’s still a sour taste with the opening arrangement. But they pick themselves up by their musical bootstraps. The stronger and impressive piano-tinged “Really Not Alone”, a song which has Paul McCartney written all over it, returns to earlier nuggets.
One tune that seems to fit them like hand in glove is “Still Not Over You”, which could be construed as Sloan covering a tune from the Patridge Family, minus the tacky clothes. The “do do dos” are in abundance, as are the great harmonies. The organ touches also add quite a bit here as Lloyd and Hoover get to the gist of the tune immediately. Groups like the Rembrandts can also be compared or seen in the sincerity of “All She Wanted”, particularly on the chorus. Perhaps the best track of the dozen is the loveable “Walking Out”, which starts out with a dreary acoustic guitar but winds itself into a catchy pop tune. Think Weezer on medication and decaf and you might get the idea.
The closing one-two punch continues the fine musicianship, pop sensibility, and well written tunes. “It Could Have Been Me” ambles along an Americana pop road with hints of Earle, Kevin Welch, or others shunned from Nashville’s Music Row. “Fireflies” is perhaps a bit of letdown, though, with more of the lights-dimming mood-setting romance than it needs. Regardless, this is a fine pop album from two people you probably wouldn’t know from a hole in the ground.
// Notes from the Road
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