Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Jack + Eliza - No Wonders EP

In general, American college kids are pretty predictable -- sleep, classes, parties, hook-ups, beer, football games.  They can live their lives that way because that's what college kids do, and no one can criticize them because, well, that's what college kids do.  However, every now and then someone comes along to raise the curve.  And today's someone-raising-the-curve actually is two someones, namely Jack Staffen and Eliza Callahan.  Jack is a sophomore double major in history and political science at New York University, and Eliza is a sophomore double major in visual arts and English literature at Columbia University.  But that isn't enough for this duo.  They also write and perform music as Jack + Eliza, have signed to Yebo Music (which also released the latest album by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), and have just released No Wonders EP, their debut record.  And while some may be tempted to resent these over-achieving New Yorkers, I'm not.   You see, the No Wonders EP is melodic, nostalgic, sunny and almost indescribably cute.  The vocal harmonies recall The Mamas and Papas and the Beatles.  The jangling guitars underscore the '60s vibe.  And the delivery is cool and unaffected.  As I said, it is cute; and cute is good in this case.

The first of the EP's five tracks is the standout "Secrets" (video below).  With gorgeous harmonies and twanging and jangling guitar accompaniment, it should be irresistible for any pop fan.  The dreamy "Hold the Line" (stream below) cements the duo's jangle pop credentials, and features a delightful call and response vocal.  "So Open" is a heart-on-the-sleeve '60s nugget.  The penultimate track, "Floodlights", initially competes with "Secrets" as the track which most recalls The Mamas and Papas, but shows a more modern face as it unspools.  In the closing track, "Heading West", Jack and Eliza recall the best work of She & Him, or the first album from Seattle's The Young Evils.

It is over fast, but you'll be all two happy to replay it multiple times.  Jack + Eliza focus on songwriting (Eliza won the John Lennon songwriting contest at age 15) and vocal interplay.  There isn't much of that around these days, and I suggest we all treasure it.

Yebo Music

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