Music

Family of the Year: Family of the Year

Photo: Shane McCauley

Breezy folk-pop that's fun to listen to but could use more emotional depth.


Family of the Year

Family of the Year

Label: Nettwerk
US Release Date: 2015-09-04
UK Release Date: 2015-09-11
Amazon
iTunes

It’s too bad this album wasn’t released in May. The first single, “Make You Mine”, is a great summer song, with its combination of sweet lyrics, smooth vocal harmonies, a catchy beat that alternates between piano and guitar, and that let-the-wind-blow-your-hair-while-you-don’t-care feeling. “All the boys and all the pretty girls / Summertime, I’m gonna make you mine,” the band sings. “All the fun to shine on everyone / Summertime, I’m gonna make you mine.” The song is hard to get out of your head after you’ve heard it. Though three members of Family of the Year come from the East Coast (the brother combination Joseph and Sebastian Keefe, and James Buckey), the band is currently based in Los Angeles, and they appear to have bought into the mythic breeziness spun from the SoCal dream factory. Their sound is part beach, part party.

If there’s a lightness and groove and beautiful melodies driving these songs, a sadness underlies the lyrics of many of them. Perhaps the band is the family of the year which only the members know is dysfunctional behind the scenes. “Facepaint”, “Carry Me”, “Blue Jean Girl”, and “Dead Poets” are story songs about characters who don’t seem like the songwriters, and all of these characters struggle in their lives. I like these songs, but mostly as pleasant sounding pop that you don’t need to know the words to in order to appreciate. It might be even better not to listen carefully -- within songs, the responses to the characters’ problems seem a bit facile, the kind of response or advice that a young teen might offer up -- but the advice sure comes with delicious hooks and harmonies. Keyboardist Christina Schroeter sings “The Dance”, which has lyrics that represents well a 9th grade girl’s view of the world and a sound that would represent that simplistic, yearning time: “Boys will be boys / Girls will be girls / Make me a part of your world / Oh how I wish you would ask me to dance / Hold me so slowly with both of your hands.” The first-person songs that seem to reflect more directly the songwriter’s sentiments are stronger, particularly “May I Miss You” and “Give a Little”.

Family of the Year closes with a song, “Hey Kid”, that exemplifies the album's themes. After saying to “the kid” that “everybody’s worried about you” because he keeps lying, the narrator reveals that his empathy comes from experience: “I can relate / I did it in my day / I know that it sucks she’s gone / I know the pain will never go away / Can’t turn it off and on." Family of the Year seems most comfortable writing songs that show young people sorting out identity and relationships in young life. It’s a surprise to get that vibe here, three years after the band’s breakthrough album of 2012, Loma Vista, which featured such coming-of-age songs. That album’s “Hero” -- a song used prominently in one of the great movies of the last five years, Boyhood -- became one of those infrequent acoustic anthems that represent the viewpoint of a young Everyman: “And we can whisper things / Secrets from our American dreams.” The new album still has joyful harmonies interwoven into catchy, occasionally rocking acoustic indie-pop, but there’s nothing like “Hero” here.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

I Went on a Jewel Bender in Quarantine. This Is My Report.

It's 2020 and everything sucks right now, so let's all fucking chill and listen to Jewel.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.