(North of January, CD)
The cuddly charisma of Burlington's lo-fi pop champions The Smittens has won them fans in the Green Mountains and beyond. Featuring a who's who of the local indie scene, the band strums and chums their way through cheekily romantic tunes with childlike enthusiasm. Their sophomore effort, A Little Revolution, improves on the musical formula first heard on their debut, but retains the feel-good vibe that has endeared them to so many.
Opener "My Favorite Dream" tumbles in with bombastic tom-tom rolls and '60s-style guitar. Tinkling piano and churchlike chimes provide the backdrop for a sugar-sweet duet between co-vocalists Colin Clary and Dana Kaplan. Their innocent lyrics and coy delivery recall the golden age of teen pop, with just a hint of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Keyboardist/vocalist Max Andrucki's captivating baritone joins Kaplan's girlish croon on "Jeans & Mittens," a paean to romance on a crisp Northeastern day.
The chiming, Byrds-like intro of "Stop the Bombs" is lovely, as is the Phil Spector-gone-new-wave lurch of "The Garden." On this track, Andrucki once again shows off his low-toned pipes as drummer Holly Chagnon holds a steady backbeat. Bassist David Zacharis - often referred to as "the Greek one" in the band's promotional literature - thrums along with unpretentious root notes.
Clary takes a turn on lead vocals on the dreamy "Party Time," before being replaced by Kaplan's hazy melodies in the second verse. An album highlight, the track marries the layered density of shoe-gazer rock with more toothsome pop flavors. The festive "Good Migrations" features the hilarious opening line, "Why can't there be Hanukkah in springtime / Why did they have to bury it in the snow?" delivered in peculiar deadpan by Andrucki. The chorus provides a list of tropical climes the band would prefer to celebrate the holiday in. With its shaggy charm and faux orchestral arrangement, the tune is one part Bacharach and two parts Elf Power. The idyllic "Flowers, Kisses You" closes the record like a gentle breeze on a late summer's evening. It's a sweet finish for an album's worth of ear candy.
The band's DIY approach might not be for everyone. Unlike other sunshine-pop groups such as the Wondermints, The Smittens prefer their music to be a little rough around the edges. Still, this quirky quintet just wants to feel good, and chances are A Little Revolution will make you feel that way, too. Catch their CD release party with Physics Club, Pony Up! and James Kochalka Superstar Thursday, August 25, at Club Metronome.