Chatfield Holiday is the first proper full-length release from Denver's Maybellines, following a slew of EPs, singles, and compilation contributions. With the Maybellines, what you see is what you get. From the pastel cover drawing of a wide-eyed innocent girl and her oversized puppy dog to songs about playing Battleship and riding Big Wheels, it's easy to imagine that the world the Maybellines exist in is one constructed of gingerbread and lollipops where the occasional shower is really only a spritz of club soda. And yet there's something surprisingly un-ironic about all of this. You get the impression that the band isn't a bunch of post-everything college snobs pretending to be giddy as some sort of crude commentary on the cynical society we live in. Instead, it seems that the Maybellines are genuine optimists, happy to be happy and unashamed of it. While the music is a bit by the numbers and the vocals are by no means spectacular, something about the whole package is appealing in a saccharine, jangly '60s pop sort of way (minus the psychedelic experimentation that fellow '60s admirers like the Elephant 6 groups deal in).
While the Maybellines do rock out a little on fuzzy guitar and organ-dominated tracks like "Big Wheel," the general rule for the Maybellines is sugary guitar pop with breezy female vocals that are more spoken than sung. The group's playful aesthetic and Julie Dorough's breathy coo at times call to mind Japanese girl-pop artists like Kahimi Karie, Pizzicato Five, Brown, and Mummy the Peepshow. Some of the album's strongest moments, like "Wait for You," find Dorough performing duets with Mike Levasseur, and the duo's mischievous interplay calls to mind the summery, playful pop/rock of Imperial Teen, Dealership, and Stereolab. "Walking Down the Street" is a duet with a boy and girl each telling the story of the concert they attended the night before, and the concertgoer who caught their eye. Of course, they're singing about each other, but they don't know it until the last verse when they bump into each other on the street. With lyrics like "Dear diary, last night I saw the cutest boy/He's so dreamy/I wonder what he's doing right now," all of this may be a bit too saccharine for jaded indie rockers to handle, but the Maybellines will no doubt find an audience with sugar pop fans. A soundtrack crafted especially for sunny days spent riding bikes, chasing the ice cream man, and debating the finer points of Nancy Sinatra's "Sugar Town" while listening to Apples in Stereo 45s.