[5 October 2008]
With three different songwriters, an album can tend to sound disjointed and discombobulated. The opposite is the case with Bel Air, a Brooklyn quintet founded by three veterans of the fairly successful garage band Breakup Breakdown. All of the tracks contain a loose Americana edge from twangy ballads (“Almost”) to punk- and Buddy Holly-influenced pleas to women (“Riverside Drive”) . Intricate arrangements (featuring instruments including various percussion, melodica, saxophone and violin) follow male-to-female-slung vocals and multi-layered harmonies to form what Bel Air calls “dream country.”
Songs featuring Allie Langerak conjure images of 1990s female-led alt-pop (e.g., Cowboy Junkies, Cranberries, The Sundays), with a casual, drifty pop side to its gritty Americana backdrop. Slow and comforting twang added by Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner (Magnolia Electric Company, Marah) softens the loveliest of ballads and deepens the breadth of the soulful lullabies. “This City, Part 2” almost seems to proceed with tongue-in-cheek references to the music and scene of the Allman Brothers and Gram Parsons. Their Southern country guitar rock and the narrator’s spouting various grandiose life plans that most people only consider when severely stoned.