"It's the middle of March but it feels like summer," sings Allen Clapp on the album's title track, "and I wouldn't call that a California bummer." Clapp, who's also the group's main songwriter, has a weakness for obvious rhymes such as "smile" and "while" or "stars" and "afar"; fortunately, most of his lyrics are sharper than his rhymes, and the music is sunny enough to get you dreaming of California on a spring (or winter) day. The album's opening song, "Back in San Francisco," sets the tone for the rest of the album: precisely crafted power pop with Ventures-influenced guitar that keeps it from sounding too twee, as well as bittersweet California-oriented lyrics that suggest an ambivalent attitude toward the region ("It's just no good to go back there crying/But don't discourage me from trying"). The influence of the Beach Boys and the Byrds pervades the album, but the group's musical palette isn't limited to the 1960s; songs such as "You're So Clever" serve as reminders that the band also has roots in 1990s indie rock. The perky folk-soul of "Mazatlan/Shining Bright" evokes the 1970s AM radio hits found on the Have a Nice Day compilations, and there's even a disco beat on "Every Single Thing." As the music radiates out of your speakers, you may be delighted by the musicians' tight playing and arrangements, their refusal to undermine their catchy pop tunes with lo-fi affectations or self-indulgent meandering, and the intriguing contrast between the sprightly music and sometimes angry lyrics (e.g., the denunciation of a former landlord in "Redwood City"). Or, you may find the music too pristine, wish it had more distinguishing idiosyncracies, and wonder if the songs will hold up to repeated listening. But if you want to hear shimmering California pop/rock and don't care if it breaks any new ground, this is a good place to start. -AMG
If you like "So Far" get it here!