Although the track-listing on the back of this CD is written on the side of two crushed PBR cans, Ivy League’s music leans closer to the sophisticated nature of their name. With four songs of breezy indie pop, the duo of Alex Suarez and Ryland Blackinton recall everyone from The Shins to Belle & Sebastian with their immaculate vocal melodies and spare instrumentation. For the most part the songs are introduced with fingerpicking, brushed drums and northern soul bass, but curve balls throw the disc into momentary genre-confusions. On the title track, for all its rainy day delicacy, there are some pretty unexpected harmonized guitar leads to usher the track out. Likewise, “P is for Penelope” cultivates a coffee shop vibe before a building tempo change in the song’s second half gives way to an electro beat and some perfectly absurd hair metal guitar shredding. The western turn on “June” is as close to a misstep as the duo gets. It’s a pleasant enough ramble down familiar roads, but the songwriting intricacies that make the two previous tracks shine are noticeably absent.
The EP closes with a two-minute cover of Arcade Fire’s “Crown of Love.” Given a Simon & Garkfunkel treatment, this song just melts. Dropping the original’s orchestral waltz, all that carries the weight of the emotionally distraught lyrics on this version is a single acoustic guitar and a two-part harmony. It’s quite an achievement and, if nothing else, could help bring back into style artists covering their contemporaries rather than dragging old hits out for nostalgia’s sake.
Twentyseven Records: www.twentysevenrecords.com