Lunchbox

Lunchbox Loves You

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If Lunchbox's album Lunchbox Loves You were an actual lunchbox, it would be a dented old Archies one with a couple of apples (in stereo) inside. Laffs aside, the group's first album in over a decade is a noisy bubblegum treat that starts off with the jangly, handclappy "Everybody Knows" and keeps going from one brightly colored genius pop song to the next in a rush of hooks, stuffed-to-the-gills arrangements, and breathless vocals. Now down to a duo of Tim Brown and Donna McKean, the band has set aside any Stereolab influence and most of its keyboards in favor of a straightforward, incredibly catchy sound built around Brown's layered, blown-out acoustic and electric guitars, with some understated horns, flutes, strings, and handclaps providing the occasional dash of color. It's a warm and inviting sound that's easy to love. Especially if you adored Rocketship but wish they would have written short, snappy tunes, or if you long for the days of scratchy, lo-fi bubblegum singles on Elephant 6 or Bus Stop. Lunchbox Loves You is that kind of record. Pick any track -- the British psych-influenced "Tom, What's Wrong?," the gently stomping "What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You," or the yearning jangler "Another Dancefloor" -- and it sounds like a heavenly pop hit beamed in from 1996 or so. Without a weak song in the bunch, it really is some kind of pocket pop masterpiece. The duo has such mastery of the lo-fi dynamics, injects so much joy into the performances, and writes such brilliant pop songs that it's not only a stunning comeback, it's like the mid-'90s classic album that never quite was. A small-scale classic, to be sure, but one that should be on the want list of anyone who ever owned an Apples in Stereo album, was a member of a chamber pop collective, or misses simple, pre-blogosphere indie pop with no agenda, only great songs.

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