Friday, October 29, 2010

CD of the Day, 10/29/10: Slumberjet-Slumberjet

The latest entrant into the subgenre of British power pop that started with XTC and continues to this day with the likes of Pugwash, Captain Wilberforce and Duncan Maitland is Slumberjet. Although technically they're not British (they hail from Dublin), Barry O'Brien and the lads have given us an impressive debut album and yet another best-of-2010 contender. O'Brien may be familiar to a select few of you thanks to his excellent 2004 EP, Spark, and here he and his band build on Spark's promise.

"The Strangest Game" starts off the festivities, a propulsive pop tune that features some fine keyboard work from the aforementioned Mr. Maitland. "The Letter" follows, a catchy midtempo treat, and on its heels is the album's most ambitious track, the excellent ballad "Sisters in the Sky". Eric Matthews contributes the brass & strings, and Maitland's piano gives "Sisters" the feel of one of XTC's classic ballads like "Chalkhills & Children". "C Song" is a busy power pop number that has a Jason Falkner feel, and the melancholy "Cut Me Out" boasts more hooks than a coat rack.

The buoyant "Under the Waves" kicks off the second half of this disc, helped along by Matthews' horns, and "Gone" is a power pop pastiche of styles, showing off O'Brien's songwriting skill. "You Stole" is plainly the prettiest thing on the disc, another XTC-style ballad that features Matthews' fine work again (as well as his backing vocals). Closing things out, "Breakfast Time" is a punchy popper that reminds me of David Doll/Automat, "Truth" channels Pugwash (not surprising since two of his sidemen help make up Slumberjet), and "Thanks" is a trippy psychedelic tour de force with backwards guitars that sums up the album's strengths in four minutes even. It seems as though with every disc I review lately the competition for the year-end list gets fiercer and fiercer, and Slumberjet have certainly staked their claim.

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