Page France

Page France and the Family Telephone

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    6
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Over the course of their past two albums, Page France have succeeded in serving up bouncy, rosy-cheeked indie pop that twangs like Neutral Milk Hotel and grins like Gruff Rhys, and they continue in this vein, for better or for worse, on their third effort. On the bright side, they sound more seasoned this time around; the good tracks on Page France and the Family Telephone are among the best written and most confident the band has come up with yet. "Wet Dog Afternoon" swings like Beulah and sparkles like Bishop Allen; it's hooky and smart, a perfect mix of nasal vocals, rock candy guitar licks, wistful glockenspiels, and surreal storytelling. Speaking of surreal stuff, it becomes clear by the third track that this is probably the weirdest album Page France have made to date; frontman Michael Nau draws listeners, ringmaster-style, through a circus of twinkle-toed bears, sentient violins, gun-toting angels, and rabbit-wielding magicians. This sort of sparkly eyed wonder is good in small doses, but things start to get ugly when the music reaches a saccharine pitch and the lyrics grow impenetrably cryptic. There's also a troubling sameness to some of these tracks, particularly when it comes to the last half of the disc, and that's what ultimately does this release in. Page France and the Family Telephone is great in small doses, especially when it comes to wily, whimsical songs like "Be My Pianist" or "The Ruby Ring Man." These songs are as good as the band's earlier stuff, if not better, and that's what makes this album feel about as sad as a soggy, over-frosted birthday cake. The whole shebang is done in by a lack of texture and too much sweetness.

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