Often writing a pop song is more formula than art but it still has to be perfected. Coming from the tiny Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, Two Hours Traffic have created a work that does just that. They’ve dipped their sound in the same magical pop pool as Halifax’s Sloan or Joel Plaskett and yet reached beyond into the throw-back production style of contemporaries like the Strokes. Theirs is jangly guitar rock dressed in the lustre and sparkle of a pastel era. In some ways it’s a more authentic and less deliberate stab at the same territory that Weezer rocked but without the riffage.
There are no tracks on the album that will cause a stir on mainstream radio. Though they each have moments of promise or excitement, they falter just short of memorable. The chorus on “Audrey” is strong enough to implant itself in your head long after the first listen but the rest seems constructed to only support it. Album opener “Magic” begins with “woo hoo hoo”s that seem early and out of context somehow next to Liam Corcoran’s vocal delivery. Even at his happiest he sounds irrepressibly melancholy. He’s easily one of Canada’s most distinct and solid rock vocalists which shows in the way each track is so flawlessly executed you’d swear they were practiced cover songs.
Two Hours Traffic has become a juxtaposition of syrupy-sweet songwriting — lyrics like “We Amour than just Amis / But lovers we are not” walk a thin line between clever and grating — with chords and fast strumming that seem to try to sound hopeful and unsuccessfully upbeat. Note for the anglophones: “amour” and “amis” are French for “love” and “friends”.
While not boasting any breakout springtime anthems on the level of “Hereos of the Sidewalk” or “Nighthawks”, it’s still worth the time for any fan.