Sleeping in the Aviary

Great Vacation!

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When a band starts off an album with a song called "Y.M.C.A. (No, Not That One)," there's always the danger of dealing with an act where potentially forced wackiness takes precedence over, say, making actually interesting or enjoyable songs. (Doubtless listeners have their own non-favorite examples.) Sleeping in the Aviary thankfully don't try to force the issue -- there are no ironic quotes in the song, for instance -- and instead it's the kind of slightly breezy, chipper power pop in a 21st century indie rock context that can be expected from any number of acts. Admittedly, plenty of other touches can be heard in the music -- from gargling to harps -- but Spike Jones this isn't when it comes to truly gone silliness. Neither is it Neutral Milk Hotel, but there's a ghost of Elephant 6 hanging over the whole thing, a kind of polite studio playground aiming to catch the ear rather than befuddle a listener, down to the ambling ukulele performances. There are occasional moments of cutting loose in other directions -- the opening seconds of "Maria's Ghost" might as well be Dillinger Escape Plan in their frenetic grind and chaos -- but it's all back to winsome modern vaudeville soon enough. And that's no sin, but after a while grandiose demi-anthems like "Start the Car" are plowing well-established ground. Still, ending on a keyboard-led song called "I Want You Back (I Want You Dead)" that half sounds like a lost lounge anthem from 1980 is a nice, unexpected kicker.

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