The jangly indie pop sound, paisley ’60s flourishes, and accented vocals on Literature’s Chorus suggest something made in the heart of England, perhaps straight out of Morrissey’s shirt pocket — which wouldn’t be notable in the least, except that the quartet hail from Philadelphia. Not that there’s anything wrong with emulating cross-Atlantic influences; to be sure, both British and American bands have been doing that for decades. Literature just do so in an entirely professional and unabashed way, a way in which the fresh moments flash incongruously out of a familiar swirl — and when those moments don’t show, the swirl can get a little too familiar.
The band’s ability to put themselves wholly into the world of The Smiths, or perhaps a Kinks-ier version of The Cure, on tracks like “The English Soft Hearts” is uncanny. Nathan Cardaci’s affected vowel formations are the most obvious (but certainly not only) attribute cribbed from retro English indie pop. The hook on opener “The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything” would be laughably obvious in less dedicated hands, but the band bops their way along so sincerely that it’s hard to think that anything but true admiration brought them to their sound.
After the relatively lo-fi burn of 2012’s Arab Spring, Literature teamed with Slumberland Records for this follow-up, a wise choice considering the pitch-perfect pastel homage of this album’s “Court/Date” and the bleary sugar rush of “Jimmy”. Whereas many indie bands lose their character when polished up, Literature’s best moments sound designed for that big room.
An entire album of affect and shine, though, can take its toll, as evidenced by the lifeless “Chime Hours”. The slowed rhythm and clouded production put a pinpoint focus on the blunted lyrics. “Here is a church and here are the people/ Waiting for something that is not real,” Cardaci sings from an oh-so-appropriately watery reverb depth, the childish nursery rhyme element given without even the hint of a wink. A little bit of the candy-coated trip of Chorus works — but too much and the magic starts to fade, the moments losing their sheen, their details fading into an unmemorable pastiche.
Essential Tracks: “Court/Date”, “Jimmy”