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Rob Poppy – Box of Laughs

Rob Poppy – Box of Laughs

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Happy-go-lucky pop offerings that will put a goofy grin on your ugly mug

I first listened to Box of Laughs, the new album from Norman, Oklahoma’s Rob Poppy, while cleaning my room, attempting to get an initial feel for the unfamiliar musician while simultaneously doing something both productive and long overdue. You know how it is, living the crazed and hectic life of a college student. We have to get good at multitasking.

The next day, while I was at work, I caught myself humming the tracks I’d heard in the back of my mind while trying to sort through three loads of laundry and vacuum my once-cream-colored carpet for the first time in months. Such is the catchiness of Box of Laughs.

Later, I listened to the album several more times, giving it a thorough inspection. I am, in fact, listening to it as I write this, bobbing my head back and forth and feeling generally better about life for it, I think.

The first track, an instrumental entitled “Exit Stage Right,” begins with a chipper guitar line, followed closely by some rollicking, bluegrass fiddle. Then the harmonica makes an entrance, rocking hard and reminding you of just why Blues Traveler was so badass. Just when you think it can’t get any better, swanky ska horns leap in and you feel an irresistible urge to jump up and start dancing with all your limbs shaking. You look like an idiot, but that’s okay.

Other standout tunes include “Schizo Love,” with its distinctive bluegrass flavor, the bouncy “Moral Standard Classy Couth,” and “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” an ode to one of the longest words in the English language. Look it up.

“Dark Strangers Lament” is another quirky tune, sounding vaguely like a grinning, mysterious tango.

On the more light-hearted tracks, Rob Poppy’s voice is reminiscent of Jonathan Richman’s. Some of Poppy’s lyrics also have the whimsical flavor Richman tended toward, post-Modern Lovers. On the more serious tracks, his voice sounds a bit like the bleating style of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum.

Besides Poppy on guitar, bass, vocals, melodica and Theremin, Box of Laughs features Travis Wackerly on fiddle and mandolin, Adam Rittenberry on cross harps, Toby Kraft on trombone and Rob Martin on drums. The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Trent Bell of Norman’s Bell Labs.

-Amanda Bittle