Life, you will have observed, is not a series of epic epiphanies and seismic milestones, but a succession of quiet weeks and months, interrupted at rare intervals – if you’re lucky – by fleeting moments of significance or grace: a new crush, a break-up, the discovery of a particularly good book or song or film, an intense conversation with a friend that you know you won’t forget. Some of the best pop bands of the past several decades have made it their mission to evoke, in their words and in their music, the understated beauty of everyday living. Think of the Go-Betweens, who found boundless romantic possibility in going for a walk or spending the night in; or Belle and Sebastian’s hushed remembrances of little failures and lessons learned, and sympathetic portraits of young misfits struggling to make sense of the world.
Pants Yell!, despite their misleadingly emphatic (and eternally mysterious) name, belong to this crucial lineage. Together since 2003, when they formed at a Boston art school, the trio is the vehicle for singer-guitarist Andrew Churchman’s modestly proportioned but perfectly realized songs. Abetted by co-founding bassist Sterling Bryant and drummer Casey Keenan (who joined in 2007), his two- and three-minute marvels draw power from restraint and poetry from plainspoken observation – in short, they are greater than the sum of their parts. Not for nothing did he name the band’s last album Alison Statton, in honor of the former Young Marble Giants/Weekend singer, who understood better than most that a whisper, dispensed properly, is always more affecting than a scream.
Alison Statton, the third Pants Yell! album, brought the band unprecedented critical and popular success internationally. And now they’ve come to rest at their spiritual home, Slumberland Records, with its remarkable follow-up, Received Pronunciation. In nine songs and 26 minutes, and without ever deploying a distortion pedal, they make a greater emotional impact than an album twice as long and at double the volume. Which isn’t to say the album lacks for visceral sonic thrills – hear “Someone Loves You” build to an ecstatic climax that perfectly justifies the song’s title, or the elegant guitar solo that launches “Cold Hands” skyward. This is pop that doesn’t need to raise its voice or shake its fist; it wins you with its mind and its heart.
Tracklist: Frank and Sandy / Rue de la Paix / Cold Hands / Got To Stop / Spider / Someone Loves You / Marble Staircase / Not Wrong / To Take
Slumberland Records SLR106