Personnel: Ronnie Blake, Vincent Dawson (trumpet).
Audio Mixers: Frederik Thaae; Mark Needham; Tim Pagnotta.
Fashioners of bubbly, theatrical indie pop, California's Saint Motel sharpen their emphasis on getting feet moving with their second full-length, Saintmotelevision. While it's packed with slick anthems that will play well to venues big and not so big, the songs are fortified by just enough grit from drum and guitar tones to make textures that stick. That goes double for the lyrics, which challenge niceties and platitudes, such as on "You Can Be You" ("Let it go/I've been told a million times, 'let it go'/But I won't/'Cause my momma said 'just hold onto hope'"). To drive the point home that hips come first, though, the album kicks off with "Move," a slinky dance-pop tune that carries a chorus of "gotta get ups" reinforced by horns and chants of the title. Dialing up the energy even more is "Destroyer," a dance-rocker that trades electric guitar and tenor sax solos in between claims that "I don't break hearts/I destroy them." Elsewhere, the wry "Born Again" grooves along bass and piano that are visited by a gospel choir, including a guest soloist. If that sounds like an album climax, it's actually one of the more deliberately paced entries on the track list, along with the quasi-acoustic closer, "Happy Accidents." A record of big, rousing choruses, Saintmotelevision largely avoids feeling formulaic with the help of agile melodies, quirky arrangements, and a tone that resists saccharinity. Of note to some fans and newcomers alike, the band -- which was formed by film students -- has continued its attention to visual presentation with a series of cutting-edge (at the time of release) 360-degree virtual reality videos for select songs. ~ Marcy Donelson