Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jukebox Serenade

So, this week's entry clearly utilizes the same band-naming methodology as this blog's first profile (meaning take a beloved object of yesteryear and combine it with a format of music. See, we all can play: Streetcar Lullaby; Pinwheel Cantata; Milkwagon Ballad). But anyways, this group's sound is no mirror of Brian Fallon's crew, but rather a neatly-arranged power pop foursome more in line with Verruca Salt or Buffalo's own Goo Goo Dolls work on Superstar Carwash.

Fronted by singer-guitarist Lena Esposito, the Fairfax, Va.-based outfit released their first full-length album, Bliss, in the summer of 2009. The product doesn't stray too far from the Verruca Salt model, merged with Rob Covallo-esque production, with Esposito's lemon ice-style vocals supported by a steady, but not overly ambitious alt-rock crunch and steady rhythm section. The first single, "Abagail," moves along nicely along Chris Brownelle's blues/hard rock guitar riff and Esposito inching closer to her best Shirley Manson impression. Meanwhile, album opener "Sugarrush" is befitting its title, with a driving drum intro setting the stage for a Kim Deal chorus. Finally, the 11-track record's only true ballad, "Turning the Page" is the other can't-miss, merging piano-driven verses with an almost Christie McVie-ian chorus hook. In all, it's an effort remarkably similar to that produced by fellow northern Virginia power-poppers Smartbomb, who, unfortunately saw only a too-limited run.

Given that it's the band's first full-length offering, some leeway must be afforded for building a solid foundation before branching out more. Of course, some bands take their debut as an opportunity for a bold first impression. Still, I'd like to hear more from Jukebox Serenade beyond the proven, but not very ambitious crunch-crunch guitar and soft verse/loud chorus format. I couldn't note a single mid-song guitar figure (aka "solo") of particular note, and while there a few neat New Pornographers-ish keyboard and organ parts, I'd like to hear some more and featured more prominently. Nonetheless, its a respectable, workman-like approach from a new band who clearly has enough refined musicianship and sense of direction to lead listeners to expect more.

Come for: "Abagail"
Stay for: "Sugarrush"
You'll be surprised by: "Turning the Page"

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