Personnel: Alicia (vocals, guitar); Ruth Valencia (vocals, percussion); Matt Tomich (guitar); Gerard Civat, Manel Ibanez (keyboards).
Recording information: Backyard, Barcelona; Forn Estudi, Xilxes, Castelló/Castellón.
Illustrator: Ruth Valencia.
After a lengthy break and a drastic lineup shuffle, Spain's impossibly effervescent indie pop combo Cola Jet Set come back strong on their third album, El Fin del Mundo. Anyone who fell in love, even deep like, with their bubbly, cheerful sound on the first two albums need not worry; their core remains intact. While lead singer Ana may have departed, former backup vocalist Alicia steps up to provide exactly the kind of sweet and cheerful vocals the songs demand. The band is still helmed by Felipe and he turns in a batch of songs that have sharp hooks, finger-snapping rhythms, and effortlessly sunny dispositions. The majority of the songs sound like they were lifted from the soundtrack of the brightest, peppiest movie made, with plenty of '60s jangle and C-86 honey in the mix. This time out though, the band stretches a little and throws some other colors into its rainbow. "Me Levantaré" features some grunge-lite guitar crunch and pounding drums, "Dosifícate" has some soulful strut going on, "Sábado" ups the noise quotient and comes off like a Lush track circa "Ladykillers," and "Ahora Te Quiero Más" has a Los Bravos-inspired minor-key punch that really works when balanced against the rest of the record. In general, this is their most varied and balanced album to date, providing all the warm feelings one would expect while also throwing in a bit more emotional shade and showing some real stylistic growth. While Cola Jet Set were great as a happy-go-lucky indie pop group, the new directions and sounds they work into their basic template mean they are poised to become a full-fledged pop band capable of breaking your heart as well as making you want to get up and dance around happily. El Fin del Mundo is the work of a band on the verge of growing into something impressive and real; dismissing them as a chirpy novelty would mean missing out on their best work yet, and one of the best indie pop records of the year. ~ Tim Sendra