Hailing from Barre and currently residing in Burlington, The Year's Best are four young lads -- guitarist Adam Fuller, vocalist/guitarist Mike Wheeler, drummer Kevin Bell and bassist Sean Martin -- with a knack for meaty pop hooks and introspective indie-rock poetics. It's Not Easy Being Me Around You, the group's third CD, is a 50-minute collection of sad-eyed sermons for the lonely.
The band traffics in the oft-annoying "emo" genre. Many of TYB's contemporaries slide into self-mockery with overly earnest sentimentality. The Year's Best, however, dress their emotional outbursts in memorable songs that are tasteful, if not overly original. This is emo of the jangle-pop, happy-go-lucky variety, and the group sticks closely to its formula. Acoustic guitars chime as drums snap pleasantly along, giving the tunes a shimmering quality not often heard in the work of their downcast peers.
Unfortunately, the record suffers from a lack of variety. Opener "Till There Was You" winds its way into a rowdy rave-up, and "Calling Cards" finds the musicians bouncing like they have bellies full of Ritalin. But the majority of the album's material is firmly stuck in safe, mid-tempo territory. Even so, the foursome includes a number of small musical embellishments that keep the songs from becoming too tame.
"Till There Was You" successfully borrows lines from Meredith Willson's The Music Man -- a fine accomplishment, although they were beaten to the punch by another, slightly more famous pop group, The Beatles. "Four Leaf" features the well placed -- if decidedly un-rock -- wheezing of an accordion.
The band sounds tight and in control throughout, delivering its songs like a crew of proper professionals. Wheeler and Martin's harmonies treat the ear particularly well, as do Fuller's tasteful yet understated electric guitar leads.
It would be nice to hear the band branch out a little further, but this set of tunes goes down smooth. It's Not Easy Being Me Around You may not be, well, the year's best, but it's still a fine listen.