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A new Posies release is sonic candy for the brain. It’s their first in six years, and it’s every bit as good as you’d expect from these power popsters. It’s chock full of lovely harmonies and memorable melodies, and Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow’s excellent vocals are the icing on the cake. Helping on the album are drummer Frankie Siragusa, who’s also currently touring with the band, along with ex-Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock and singer Gizelle Smith, as well as Auer’s wife Tiz Aramini and Stringfellow’s daughter Aden.
The album opens with the driving power pop of the uber cool “We R Power”, pushed over the top by groovy organ and twining harmonies that resonate like old friends we haven’t seen in ages. It screams single to me, if only commercial radio came to its senses and actually played good music of this ilk. “Unlikely Places” is cool and mysterious, reminding me especially of another power pop fave, Fountains of Wayne. It has all the hallmarks of classic pop, minus the overly produced sheen so often hung on such fare.
Lyrics here aren’t trite, and stay with the listener as they marvel at how easy these guys make it seem. “Scattered” takes some inspiration from The Beatles, vocals sounding like a modern update on Lennon and McCartney. Soft melodies abound, and I love the line ‘Sanskrit of your face’. Sweet harmonies also make this song swoonworthy, as is often the case with Posies compositions. I also enjoy how the energy is amped up halfway through the song! Keyboards and synths add a lot of texture here. “Squirrel vs Snake” speaks of loss (the band’s bassist and drummer both died recently) and disharmony in the world beyond.
“March Climes”, which debuted here at Big Takeover, was written (according to Auer) ‘after the Charlie Hebdo attack’ as he was living in suburban Paris in close proxmity and ‘seeing the effects and reactions unfold in real time’. It is a pensive, somewhat downcast song buoyed up by the band’s sharp songwriting. “M Doll” is an odd little tune, with synthesizer and piano percolating underneath and creating unease. The lyrics are insightful and evocative, seeming to describe a model or a corporate zombie. “The Definition” is another gray, moody tune chock full of interesting word play and a toe-tappin’ bass line. “The Plague” follows in a dark cloud, an unsettling and fascinating experience! “Rollercoaster Zen” immediately reminds me of vintage Todd Rundgren (maybe it’s the keyboards), but don’t let its slightly more upbeat tone fool you, this song is about moving forward during tough times. “The Sound of Clouds” could be maudlin if not raised up by the warmth of vocals and piano. The conclusion is charged with energy before landing gently back down to its former cadence. Finally, the slightly retro “Radiance” is stuffed to the brim with angelic vocals, trippy electronics (a la Air), and a really swell guitar solo. In fact, it almost veers into post rock territory! Truly, this is an album of many moods, with alternating sunny and misty moments, rather like the weather in the band’s home town. It continues the experimental direction from their last album, and carries it on in grand fashion. A great album for all Posies fans to savor.