The Sleepy Jackson

Lovers

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Like a jukebox loaded with 35 years worth of trippy pop moments, the Sleepy Jackson's debut album Lovers runs the gamut of quirky-yet-catchy music. There's the lush, almost syrupy-sweet "Good Dancers," which, with its melting strings and cryptically affecting lines like "My heart is stronger than you are," proves that the band's comparisons to the Flaming Lips are well-earned; the piano-driven pop of "This Day," which recalls everyone from Badly Drawn Boy to Al Stewart; and "Acid in My Heart," a pretty, off-kilter ballad reminiscent of some of Robyn Hitchcock's quieter moments. While Luke Steele's influences show through on all of Lovers' tracks, somehow the album avoids sounding totally derivative; instead, it just reveals Steele as a pop chameleon and an expert at pastiche. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Soft Boys-channeling single "Vampire Racecourse" is Lovers' best song, while the lovely "Come to This" is California country-rock meets George Harrison. (The shiny, trippy sound of Harrison's solo work is another major influence on the Sleepy Jackson's music). Likewise, "Rain Falls for Wind" is a convincing facsimile of moody '80s college rock à la the Church. The album would be full of enough sounds and styles if Steele stopped there, but Lovers also takes detours into electronic music and more experimental fare. "Don't You Know"'s fusion of gooey '70s soft rock and robotic beats works fairly well, especially since guest vocalist Haruka adds an appealing East-meets-West flair to the song. "Tell the Girls That I'm Not Hangin Out," however, feels both bloated and insubstantial, a problem that also plagues the down-home "Old Dirt Farmer." Interludes such as the spoken-word and piano-noodling "Fill Me with Apples" and the rather saccharine, child-sung "Morning Bird" detract from the album's strongest songs, reaffirming the impression that Steele is trying too hard to impress his listeners by cramming in as many different sounds as possible. It's almost as if Steele, feeling hemmed his previous EP-length releases, got carried away with having a whole album's worth of space to fill and sacrificed some substance for stylistic flights of fancy. Nevertheless, Lovers is still a promising full-length debut -- especially if Steele promises to bring more focus and originality to his work in the future. [A special edition of Lovers features the bonus track "Miniskirt," a slice of country-rock that is one of the album's better tracks.]

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