How the Format’s 2006 masterpiece Dog Problems failed to become a highly revered classic in the annals of contemporary pop music is anyone’s guess. With the group splitting shortly thereafter and former songwriting partner Nate Ruess having become a genuine pop idol with his work with the ubiquitous fun. and other pop chart staples since, Sam Means’ relative musical silence was a palpable void for fans of the dearly departed desert pop band. Where Ruess showed his heart to be more in pop bombast and shout-along choruses, the release of Means’ 10 Songs shows the quiet guitarist to be the driving sonic force behind Dog Problems’ beloved power pop sound.
Lacking the vocal prowess of Ruess, Means is a more subdued, almost sleepy performer, content with crafting a solid hook over showy, histrionic vocal tricks. In this, 10 Songs sounds like an updated take on both Format albums, one that places the emphasis more on the music and arrangements than vocals and diary-cribbed lyrics. Were there any justice, Means would reach the same heights as his former now Grammy-winning band mate. Until then, 10 Songs will sit quietly and confidently beside its direct predecessor, beloved by a devoted few. In the end, quality should always matter more than quantity.
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