The Sharp Shadows, Small Victories (released 5/2016)
It’s really a shame that we don’t use the term “college rock” anymore. Don’t get me wrong — it’s as useless a term as “indie rock,” and it denotes almost nothing — but you knew it when you heard it. Earnest and unassuming, catchy and evocative. R.E.M. was the Great American College Rock Band That Made It. The Replacements were the Great American College Rock Band That Couldn't Be Bothered With Keeping It Together Long Enough To Make It. On their debut album Small Victories, The Sharp Shadows prove themselves a college rock band to the letterman jacket.
The opening track (and presumed single), “Go It Alone,” folds powerpop time back onto itself with a punchy Joe Jackson verse and a Matthew Sweet chorus about a failure to launch. “Flat On My Back” is another defining song: it starts with the latest take on the time-tested “Pump It Up”/“My Sharona” drumbeat, then builds up to open Americana strumming and big leads that wouldn’t be out of place on a pre-major label Soul Asylum record.
There’s an earnestness to songwriter Stephen Bailey’s lyrics that evades these comparisons — he’s not as bitter or snarky as Jackson or Costello, he's not as daft as Sweet or The Knack, he's not as devil-may-care as Pirner — but he’s recognized the pop sensibilities of these diverse musicians and drawn a surprisingly convincing circle around them. Not a bad freshman effort for 2016’s resident college rock band. Let's see what the next three years hold.
Find it here: