The Kennedys

Life Is Large

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The sophomore effort from the Kennedys finds the husband-and-wife songwriters developing and refining the slightly raw jangle pop offered on their debut, River of Fallen Stars. This time out the production is a bit bigger and a bit fuller, harking back even more explicitly to the lush 1960s melodicism that is the duo's musical ideal. From the opening title track, their chiming guitars and Maura Kennedy's sweet singing voice invoke the days when paisley was cool and melody was king. "Velvet Glove" and "Life Is Large" both couch a mildly didactic theme in layers of shimmery pop bliss ("Be yourself and stand your ground/Don't let anybody turn you 'round"), but for the most part the Kennedys continue their practice of churning out thoroughly charming pop for pop's sake. "St. Mark's Square" is a tuneful ode to a nonexistent urban neighborhood, "Tribe" is a heartfelt (if kind of sappy) expression of marital solidarity, and "Blackberry Rain" is a wonderful and shameless Beatles ripoff. On this album the duo is joined by a truly amazing list of guest musicians, including obvious choices like Roger McGuinn (of Byrds fame) and Peter Holsapple (formerly of the dBs) and such less obvious ones as country-punk rocker Steve Earle and gospel legends the Dixie Hummingbirds. The lyrics get a bit soft in the middle sometimes ("Baby, look into my eyes/True love never dies/No matter what they say"), but Maura Kennedy is such a winning singer and the group's melodic sense is so solid that it's easy to overlook the occasional maudlin moment.

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