Quirky pop/rock sextet Life in a Blender have been around for a lot longer than, I’d wager, most of us realize. Since 1988, they have released a half-dozen albums and have become buddies with They Might Be Giants, even sharing guitarist Al Houghton at times. While LiaB aren’t as zany as TMBG, the music on The Heart Is a Small Balloon takes some loopy turns. At their heart, singer-songwriter Don Ralph’s songs are relaxed and catchy tunes with the college rock appeal of strummy bands like R.E.M., Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, and Camper Van Beethoven. The presence of violinist Rebecca Weiner especially recalls the last of those influences, although Houghton is nowhere near as acerbic as David Lowery. In fact, his vocals often fall a little flat, both melodically and in the lack of oomph in their delivery. Life in a Blender seem about as poised to break out of the way, way underground as they ever have. The Heart Is a Small Balloon has its rewarding moments, but it’s lacking the kind of zip, pizzazz, and zing that would make it a great little buried treasure. Instead, it’s mostly just nice, kind of goofy, pretty good.
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