Let me start off by saying that i love the name of this band.
I Hate You Just Kidding (from here on out i am abbreviating this to IHYJK) is a duo of married couple Jessi and Jeremy Brock, who have a three-piece band backing them up at times.
The 5-piece IHYJK makes happy, new wavey pop that at times veers into 1950s-ish pop. This is innocent, wide-eyed music for white people to sway along to at shows. I have a certain fondness for this type of music, and i think that IHYJK have a lot to offer.
The record starts off with one of the loveliest pop tunes that i have heard in years, Smokestacks. This song is built out of chiming guitar, sparkling keys, and Jessi Brock's lovely voice. The song is pretty and floats along happily, just a nice relaxing moment. Truly wonderful.
The next tune, Heartbeat, is also really nice. This one is driven by an insistent rhythm, courtesy of drummer Greg Anderson, here moonlighting from his regular gig in Fellow Bohemian. Keys and guitars pulse along his beat as Jessi Brock sings with crisp, clear pronunciation. On this song in particular, her vocals remind me of My Favorite's Andrea Vaughn. And that is a good thing.
Fallen is a lot more delicate. At first, the song is barely there in a faint layer of tinkling guitar, some light percussion, and her voice. However, this song has weird drumming. It floats along lightly for a while, then a clicking drum machine comes in, layered on the top of the music so that the clicking overpowers the voice and the guitars. At the end, Anderson comes in with a heavy beat -- not fast but a little faster than the melody and, again, out front, so that you hear the drumbeat over everything else. This is a very odd recording choice -- people just don't layer the drums in front. And yet ... i think it kinda works. It gives the song a somewhat surreal, dreamy quality.
Speaking of which, the next track is called Dreaming, and Jeremy Brock takes over the vocals. Instead of sounding like a wistful 1980s tune, Mr. Brock takes the band back to the 1950s -- poodle skirts and clean cut young men in pressed suits singing about romance. This is, in many ways, the sort of thing that people in the 1980s were rebelling against, so to switch between those two styles is kind of odd. Also, i think that Jessi made a mistake in letting her husband sing. She is clearly the better vocalist.
However, he sings again on I Hope Someone Up There Loves Me, which is a jangle pop tune. The rhythm is nice but it would have been more interesting is Jessi had sung it.
She is back for Constellations, her voice steering the band back to New Wave sounds. This song chimes nicely, with a beat that is a little faster than the last two. It fills the need for a 1980s fix quite nicely.
The band sort of stumbles on Splendid Eyes, where they play slide guitar and Jessi Brock sings a country ballad. This is not awful, just not that great.
The low point of the record is Too Far Gone. Jeremy sings this one, which is a painfully slow ballad with piano and percussion tapped on the side of an acoustic guitar. This doesn't even feel like a finished song -- it is like it is more of a sketch compared to the rich instrumentation seen elsewhere on this record.
We end things with Dreamcatcher with new wave guitar an chugging beats under some Jeremy Brock vocals. It is certainly more upbeat and richer sounding than the previous two songs, but still not IHYJK's best work.
The album starts off so great with three wonderful tunes, and then by the time you hit the second side of the record, it seems like the band was out of ideas and just threw together a few demos. The first six songs are full and lush and interesting, and the last three just feel like they were trying to fill up the record.
Still, Smokestacks and Heartbeat are really good tunes.