Recently, at a particularly informal job interview, a friend somehow found herself discussing music with her prospective employer. The interviewer was middle-aged, and despite hearing numerous references to indie music on NPR, he had no idea what the hell it meant. My friend readily explained the word initially referred to bands on independent labels but had slowly became an umbrella term for all alternative music. This did not satisfy the interviewer. He wanted to know what exactly indie music sounded like. With little thought, my friend glibly responded: effeminate boys warbling over jangly guitars. And so we have Pomegranates, the consummate indie band.
Hot on the heels of its 2008 albumEverything Is Alive, the Cincinnati quartet released its sophomore disc Everybody, Come Outside! before its debut was even a year old. The band claims the new record (trendily abbreviated as ECO!) tells the story of a man who is abducted by a time traveler while attempting to swim across the ocean or something. Song titles like “The Southern Ocean” and “384 BC” hint at this theme, but as with virtually all concept albums, the narrative is intentionally vague and mostly incoherent.
Disregarding the negligible plot, the songs are standard indie pop. While Pomegranates profess such diverse influences as Brian Eno and Fela Kuti, the more obvious touchstones are Wolf Parade and Vampire Weekend. In particular, the ever-present specter of Modest Mouse is apparent in vocalist Jacob Merritt’s boyish yelps and guitarist Isaac Karns’ nimble riffs.
Sonically, the band never deviates from the reverb-drenched guitar-bass-drums palate, adding sound effects and keyboard flourishes sparingly. The only major misstep comes at the end of the record, the 13-minute “I Feel Like I’m a Million Years Old”, which quickly devolves into interminably aimless repetition. Elsewhere, the band keeps things moving at a steady clip, knocking off a few catchy numbers. Most notable are the boisterous invitation of the titular track that opens the album, the dreamy “Beachcomber” and the energetic “Corriander”.
As a whole, the album is doggedly consistent and relatively pleasant, which is its major problem: There is nothing particularly surprising or interesting here. With thousands of bands competing for your attention, Pomegranates fail to establish a unique voice to distinguish itself from the noise. Worse, it sounds old-fashioned, providing modest updates on a musical style that has been prevalent for over a decade. Hardcore indie kids will undoubtedly warm to this album’s familiar comforts, but the rest of us need not bother. Sure, there are some decent songs here, but nothing you couldn’t find elsewhere, both in and outside the nebulous realm of indie music.