The Icicles

Arrivals & Departures

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On their sophomore album, Arrivals & Departures, the Icicles continue to put together the kind of songs whose over-the-top sweetness feels less like an aesthetic and more like a tried and true way of life. (Exhibit A: the band's penchant for wearing homemade matching outfits in their live performances.) And while this might work for some bands, it's not really the Icicles strong suit. They just sound too put together, too planned, too adult. Arrivals & Departures seems to reach for the kind of frivolously fun-loving indie pop slung by acts like the Besties, I'm from Barcelona, and the Bicycles, bands whose main appeal is their irrepressible, childlike spark. But in spite of the fact that their second album slaps together many of the same indie pop ingredients the aforementioned bands use (childlike wonder? Check! Songs about summer? Check! Glockenspiels and "la ti da"'s? Check!), the Icicles only manage to pull off a stiff, restrained kind of playfulness. "Snowbird"'s execution, for example, is awfully pent-up, and what should have been a fun little pop song about Michigan winters ends up sounding cloyingly sweet and, truth be told, boring. The same goes for "Crazy," a tune that could've been a lot more fun without its glossy, calculated vocal harmonies. Arrivals & Departures is at its best when the Icicles stop being so self-consciously cute and start having fun, which is exactly why "La Ti Da" is the strongest track on the album. Another high point on the disc, strangely enough, is the relatively somber track "Whirling"; it's folky, it sounds kind of 10,000 Maniacs-meets-early-R.E.M., but it has a wonderfully dark tunefulness befitting of the Icicles' maturity. But this track is an exception, and on Arrivals & Departures the Icicles basically strive to sound as youthful and fun as possible -- an angle that would have worked if only the people who made it didn't sound so transparently, uncomfortably grown up.

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