A soft jangle of guitars, a hazy, New Zealand production sheen, the gently melancholy yet sort of humorous lyrics had me thinking I’d stumbled onto some lost Flying Nun outtake the first few times I heard “To Live and Die in the Airport Lounge.” That’s not a knock. The tune has the airy appeal of a good Bats song, seemingly ephemeral but sticking relentlessly in that brain compartment reserved for good pop. It’s just one of several really great songs on this third album from Massachusetts-based My Teenage Stride (the album was recorded just down the road from me in Shelburne Falls), and while some of them have the green pulse of New Zealand, others will remind you of XTC, the Smiths and the dBs. The title track is flat-out gorgeous, starting in washes of pastel sound, then gathering a jittery 1980s new wave angst. Guitars are staccato but soft and there’s an echoing grandeur to Jedediah Smith’s vocals that places you squarely in English Beat territory. Later, “Heartless and Cruel,” with its upbeat-stabbing guitars and drama-laden singing, evokes Morrissey at his late 1980s best, and the keyboard laced “We’ll Meet at Emilys” bounds along effervescently as any Crowded House anthem. This is wonderful stuff, as easy to listen to as it is hard to make. Don’t think about it too hard or you’ll miss the appeal of this hammock-lazing, summer-day record…just the thing for splendidly unhurried afternoons.
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