Sleeper Agent

About Last Night

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When Kentucky-based rockers Sleeper Agent emerged in 2011 with their debut, Celabrasion, they sported a scrappy sound full of pop-punk hookiness clothed in lo-fi garage production. It was a sound that worked for the six-piece band, lending some character to its songs, which seemed to pack a lot of ideas into short three-minute bursts. Three years and many tours later, the band returns with its major-label follow-up, 2014's About Last Night. Working again with producer Jay Joyce (the Wallflowers, Cage the Elephant), Sleeper Agent, led by frontwoman Alex Kandel, still pack a lot of pop punch but with softer edges, cleaner arrangements, and wholly more modern production values that don't always work in their favor. Part of Celabrasion's charm was its classic punk attitude and freewheeling essence, something that is harder to come by on their slicker sophomore effort. Lead single "Waves" still sparkles with melody, but seems an attempt to package the band in the trendy, grand singalong style of folkier contemporaries like Of Monsters and Men. Likewise, tracks like "Take It Off" amp up Sleeper Agent's more mainstream pop-punk elements, sadly dimming their personality in the process. Rather than a bold step forward, About Last Night seems to bounce around from style to style, unable to settle. Still, there are some unique results from this experimentation. The mostly acoustic closer, "Sweetheart," is an unexpected Latin-influenced pop song with stacked harmonies, and the excellent "Impressed" harks back to the melodic punk of their first album. About Last Night shows that Sleeper Agent have diversity and ideas to spare, but the album's more mainstream approach regrettably removes much of their bite.

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