Recording information: The Lightship95, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London.
PAWS' Cokefloat! cover may be wholly misleading, with the precious comic-art girl encircled in flowers and hearts, but don't be tricked into thinking this is sadcore. Here on their debut, Phillip Taylor, Matt Scott, and Josh Swinney fuse together blood-pumping indie rock with an unwitting gift for power pop to craft a tight, fun-packed debut that never misses the mark. Musically, the Scottish garage trio references '90s guitar rockers like Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub, and manages to channel the fun aspects of noisy slacker pop: dynamics, a cynical but innocent outlook, and wonderful, punchy melodies. Quick and fuzzy tunes are their forte, but the speed ranges widely from a runaway Wavves-esque number like "Bloodline" or screaming basher like "Winners Don't Bleed" to a raw acoustic ballad like "Get Bent," and every variation along the way is equally good. Production-wise, Rory Atwell of Test Icicles takes a page from the Steve Albini recording textbook and goes for a less-is-more approach. With songs this strong, it's the right way to go. Where many albums tend to run out of steam or dip in the middle, Cokefloat! is wholly focused. The debut album Post-Nothing by their tourmates Japandroids is comparable, with a shared lo-fi style, ability to trim all the fat out of the music, and the same youthful way in which the singer wears his heart on his sleeve. Jaded romance is a common topic, but it feels pure. Even when the topics are bittersweet, as in the excellent "Sore Tummy" with guest vocalist Alice Costelloe, enthusiasm holds everything together. ~ Jason Lymangrover