Sunday, June 6, 2010

Whitest Boy Alive - Rules

Release Date: March 30, 2009

★★★★★ Tracks:

Rollercoaster Ride



Whereas Dreams started with a bang but quickly tailed off in to dull mediocrity, Rules starts slowly but grows more and more engaging as its second half approaches. There are three especially strong tracks, all in a row, starting with the jazzy-dance single, “1517." “Gravity” follows, and while writing has never been Erlend Øye's strength (although we should give him credit considering English isn’t his first language), relying on a great voice and a million different ways to write about love and heartbreak, he comes up with an excellent set of lyrics on the touchy topic of a friend falling for his girlfriend. The next song, "Promise Less or Do More," has such a great guitar line inserted in to where the chorus would go that they didn't even bother adding lyrics to it.

While Rules is similar to Dreams, it isn't nearly as tedious. This can partly be attributed to the addition of a synthesizer/keyboard, adding more energy, another instrumental layer, and a bit of disco to music that was often too colorless before. Erlend Øye continues to take the "less is more" approach, but it's much more effective here. Using his words sparsely, weaving vocals in and out of the melodies, he allows the music to be the focal point of Whitest Boy Alive, never overcrowding the overall atmosphere with verbosity. Because the hooks are more contagious and the music has additional layering, the approach pays off.

That's not to say there isn't anything wrong with Rules; there are a couple of songs that completely miss the mark. The droning, repetitiveness of "Time Bomb" gets old quickly, and the already-used-a-million-times-over dance melody of "High On the Heels" proves the synths can sometimes be more hindrance than help. Rules may not be groundbreaking, but that's not what Whitest Boy Alive's intentions are. This is breezy, jazzy pop for people who enjoy the relaxing melodies the band produces, and the complete ease at which they do so. It's fun and contagious, but also complex and incredibly tight. The Whitest Boy Alive are not asking you to take them too seriously, they just want you to have some fun, while simultaneously challenging themselves as musicians and performers.

(Note: the LP's songs are arranged differently than the downloaded version.)

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