Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Those Royals-Sleepy Suburbia

February 1, 2008

thoseroyalsBand Name: Those Royals
Album Name: Sleepy Suburbia
Best Element: Pop indulgence at its best
Genre: Power-pop
Website: www.thoseroyals.com
Label Name: I Ate Her Records (www.iateherrecords.com)
Band E-mail: thoseroyals@yahoo.com

I’ll admit it: I’m a pop-a-holic. I could talk a long, long time about good pop music, and if there’s a really great pop album out there, I’ll snag it. Pop also has the ability to stay in my CD player longer than anything else (see Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne). It’s safe to say I know my way around a pop song. All that said to establish some muscle behind this point: Those Royals is one heck of a pop band.

It’s always amusing when a band knows itself so well that every single part of the album works together perfectly. From their album name to their cover art to the sound to the order of songs, Those Royals conveys one single idea with Sleepy Surburbia. There are no awkward moments- no major flubs- just pure, straight indie-power-pop goodness.

The album starts off with the quirky intro “Volkswagen Commercial”, which sets up a scene of domestic tranquility: birds chirping, dogs barking, cars zooming by, a quick little synth ditty, and a clapping crowd at the end of the 48 second song. The even-keeled “Pink is the New Black!” comes next, sending out a message to all the listeners out there: “We’re unabashedly pop. Seriously. No, really, we mean it.”

And “Pink is the New Black!” is perfect for it. “Pink…” has a great vocal performance, a memorable guitar line, and a well-layered chorus. The guitars are distorted, but not so much that it’s obnoxious- like much of this album, most of the time in “Pink…” they’re warm and inviting. The vocals are a strong tenor- not pop-punkishly high, but not really low either. It’s the perfect type of voice for pop- a voice that carries insecurity and boldness equally well.

Yes, the first half of this cd is feel-good, drive-with-the-windows-down, sunshiny pop. It’s got some gruffness behind it, but mostly you can take your cues from the mood invoked by the carefree “Collecting Pinkies”- led by a bouncy, cheery synth line and ba-ba-ba-bas, the song just floats.

A quick interlude, and we’re on the second half of the album- the more experimental, darker side of the album. But never fear- the experimentation never gets too heavy, and the darker side never wallows in the emo-ness of it all.

The ‘experimental’ songs deal mostly in non-conventional song structures and instruments, as in the highlight track “Summer Car Vacation.” What sounds like a ukulele and a melancholy synth line push the chorus-less song forward- and although the landscape sounds sparse, it’s the sparseness that makes this song so great. The vocals just take off in this song, creating the most beautiful section of music on the album.

The chorusless (and yet still fiendishly hooky) “I Was a Wedding DJ” is a little more heartfelt than the first half of the songs, while “What I Did on My Vacation” is a little bit Strokes-ian in its jangly execution.

“Romance is Dead” is the dark gem here- a groove-laden, brooding track that suits the title well. Their control of mood in this song is admirable, as well as the vocal performance.

The mark of a good pop band is in two things: a) hum factor and b) feel-good factor. Even though Those Royals’ experimentation takes away from the hum factor a bit, the feel-good factor on this is off-the-charts. There’s not a bad song in the mix- which is incredible. For an album of guitar pop (a notoriously repetitive genre) to be fifty minutes long and not have bored all the listeners by the end, it’s gotta be pretty stinkin’ good. And Sleepy Suburbia is that good.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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