La La Land have turned in one catchy, fun album.
However, well, i must admit to a certain frustration in that
i know nothing about the band. There was no press sheet with
the promo we received, and it is impossible to Google their
name and turn up anything meaningful. There is an
URL on the CD, but it launches one of those obnoxious Flash
sites with neat design and navigation so confusing that it actually
deters the dissemination of information. As far as i can tell,
all this website does is have the album available to listen
to in streaming format. No information, not even the membership
of the band, nor where they live. [Brendan's
Note: I think they're from Texas.]
Anyway, i guess that's not too important, but it is weird. From what I can tell they are a two piece band who have recently added a drummer. I think. The two main members, who trade vocal duties are Thomas Mazzi and Ruby Painter, as detailed on the CD. Both have interesting voices, and Mazzi seems to have more of the vocal duties. His voice is a rich expressive instrument that often reminds me of Matthew Sweet, although slightly huskier. He has a very clear singing style, and he uses it to great advantage here.
Painter often sings backup and/or counterpoint to his vocals, which is a very nice effect, and the two voices work well together. She sings lead on their two covers -- Da Da Da (the old Nits classic) and After Hours, which is apparently a Lou Reed song. After Hours sounds amateurish and cutesy, as it is intentionally recorded in a rawer fashion that the rest of the album. Da Da Da is a really nice cover. The minimal sparse pop that La La Land do works really well with the proper European-ness of the song. It's fun and catchy.
And that's what really makes this album. La La Land make pop music that at its core is just plain fun to listen to. It's catchy and you can't help but tap your feet along to the music. I even find it somewhat "singalongable", which is a pretty good thing in my book.
The album starts with a crunchy guitar riff, a repeated drum hit (drummer Luis Guerrer tries to sound like a drum machine at times) and Mazzi and Painter singing a duet on Let's War. It's bouncy and fun and about, well, battle-driven capitalism. (Yes, apparently La La Land are concerned citizens.) However, the next tune, Rowan St. takes the album to even higher levels of poppiness. This tune starts with a strummed acoustic guitar from Mazzi and his light voice, while Painter lays down a throbbing and meandering bass riff. Then Guerrer kicks in with the drums, Mazzi suddenly sounds electrified, and the song suddenly sounds like some lost outtake to Matthew Sweet's classic Girlfriend album, only with better basswork than Sweet ever had.
The album just continues like that, with great guitar, piano, and bass riffs thrown about like Mazzi and Painter can come up with them in their sleep. Toe-tapping rhythms are everywhere, and the melodies are exquisite and hummable. There is not a single misstep here -- every element is remarkably well placed. In fact, i really want to commend the band for their recording. Every element is so slick and clear that you can tell they spent significant time in the studio perfecting their sound. Well, it really works, and they are one of the few bands who don't sound overproduced despite their slickness. It's a remarkable feat of balance.
There are a few specific tunes that i need to go into in more detail. The first is La La Land's cover of the old Nits classic Da Da Da. I remember this from that Volkswagen commercial, but i never really paid attention to the words until Ruby Painter sang the lead. It's really a dark song, with the chorus "I don't love you, you don't love me, da da da." Still, it's toe-tappingly happy and fun, and La La Land do a good job with it.
The second tune i really love follows immediately after Da Da Da, and is called Crack Up. This is a slow song of burbling synth noises, mechanical rhythms (Guerrer does a good job of sounding almost like a drum machine), and a stunningly nice bass riff. The lyrics here are great too: "Whenever you leave the room, we all crack up." I guess it's a song about some clueless person who doesn't realize they are being mocked. In that sense, it's a mean song, but the music here is simply exquisite. Wonderfully done.
Another song that just must be mentioned for its lyrics is Crooked Star. It starts with the line "No can sustain an emotion for too long / even happiness becomes a bore after a while / and you know there is always someone willing to wipe that smile off your face" and goes on from there to describe fear of success in remarkably personal tones. I suppose this is Mazzi facing his fear. It's a nice simple song too, with strummed acoustic, deep bass, tambourine, and light keyboard effects in the background. The lyrics are what make it though, and it's not often i say that.
I really like this album and cannot recommend it enough. If you like well crafted pop music, you need to track down a copy of Ready? Ready!. This might be difficult, seeing as their website is no help. Unfortunately i have no other assistance to offer you either. Good luck -- the album is well worth the hunt.