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If The Drums possess one impressive trick, it's the ability to craft smooth, unashamed pop music.
The band's back story reads somewhat like a screenplay. In essence: pseudo-electro band gains a little buzz in post-Killers music scene, band signs to major label, band dissolves, time passes, lead singer retreats to Florida and restarts creatively with old friend, forms new project, accumulates blog buzz, moves back to Brooklyn, releases EP, et cetera.
That first band (the 'pseudo-electro' one), Elkland, may not have explored too much unfamiliar sonic territory, but the music was harmless enough: a synth-soaked, beat-heavy trip to the eighties.
Now, take that synth, replace it with sun, reverb, and slight goth undertones.
The Drums plays like a photo album, a montage of sorts. The cliche "blast from the past" fits, albeit with a surprisingly crisp flavor. The typical hand claps work when they shouldn't; the ever-obvious melodies feel strangely well-crafted. The album might just blindside even the most seasoned ear with tones so familiar they're fresh.
Each song's lyrics require no dictionary, no thesaurus, no encyclopedia. The words are plain. Yet somehow their superficial meanings cut deep.
It's that line between cliche and original, simple and complex, relevant and overdone, plain and rich, that The Drums so finely toes.
The band's minor thought process undercuts its decidedly major tonalities; "Best Friend" smilingly chronicles the story of a chum that apparently dropped dead. Lead singer Jonathon Pierce coyly sings about one particular acquaintance's actions of trying to both kill and kiss him on "Skippin' Town."
Discussions amount every year over "best winter albums" and "best late-night albums." The Drums rightly stands firm-footed as 2010's best sunglasses-on-with-the-car-windows-cracked-on-back-roads album.
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