Album ReviewsReviews

Sugar high: The Elwins “Play for Keeps”


by Sam Hawkins

While I’ve never known music to so closely resemble the cathartic sounds of a soda can, The Elwins’ sophomore album, Play For Keeps, has changed the way I understand the term “pop music.” This twelve track LP, so bubbly it borders on carbonated, has been bottled back to front with the infectious songs of an indie rock four piece.

Without having heard The Elwins’ previous work, and therefore mostly unaware of the sound in which they gravitated, I came away from my first listen reeling from some sort of induced endorphin high, and very nearly on the verge of nausea.

No one is this happy, I thought, and I began to worry whether I was cut out for this sort of stuff: the music that makes butterflies blush. But as I played out the album a second and a third time, I shed myself of any reactionary notions and began to appreciate the music for what it really was.

Catchy, polished, and absolutely persistent, this is an album composed of unabashedly cheery guitar hooks, and forthright lyrical content of which there are no apparent reservations.

Opening up the album with the appropriately titled track, “Bubble,” The Elwins immediately have us caught in the sort of vice that forces one’s foot to tap and eyes to twinkle.

While nothing short of simplified, one can’t help but be impressed by the ease of its execution, and the almost childlike naivety it seems to exhibit through the bopping it surely insists upon. But regardless of its flowery demeanor, there’s sincerity behind its composition, and if it doesn’t succeed in inciting one’s empathy, it’ll be sure to have them lending their ear for at least a moment.

Following up with songs like “So Down Low,” the first single off the album, and “Off the Wall,” we are given reason to believe that in their somewhat straightforward approach there is an intricacy to be marveled at.

Evocative of bands such as OK Go, it’s a mixture of deep instrumentation and attractive vocal melodies that rescue them from being just another forgettably restrained puff piece.

And while no record is exempt from its weaker moments, even these areas don’t fail to carry out the album’s designed purpose.

Filled with a proverbial carbon injection, every song on the album succeeds in uplifting and intoxicating its listener, even if it might leave one gasping for air.

Release date: February 24, 2015 via Hidden Pony

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